Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Arthur, king of Britain and head of the Round Table, a brave, just, and temperate ruler. He values the fellowship of his men above revenge for his queen’s infidelity, and he closes his eyes to her love for Launcelot until Mordred and Agravaine force him to act.
Queen Guenevere (GWEHN-eh-vihr), a jealous, passionate woman whose fury drives her lover Launcelot mad. She repents after the king is betrayed by Mordred, and she dies in a convent.
Launcelot du Lake
Launcelot du Lake (LOHN-seh-lot dew layk), the greatest of all the knights except those who achieve the Grail quest. He is, himself, granted a vision of the Grail, but his love for the queen bars him from success in spite of his deep and sincere penitence.
Tristram (TRIHS-truhm), the great Cornish knight who is the faithful and devoted lover of Isoud, the wife of his uncle, King Mark. Like Launcelot, he adheres firmly to the knightly code of honor and continues to fight for his country even after Mark has tried to have him murdered.
Isoud (ih-SOHD), an Irish princess, married to King Mark for political reasons although she has loved Tristram from the time she cured him of a wound incurred while he jousted with her...
(The entire section is 911 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Le Morte d'Arthur Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Arthur is the child of Igrayne and Uther. Arthur was promised to Merlin as payment for his father's pact with the magician. After his birth, Arthur is placed in the care of Sir Ector and his son, Kay. When he is able to remove the sword from the stone, Arthur become king of Britain. He is wise and strong and is able to restore peace and tranquility to the kingdom. However, not everyone approves of Arthur and he must fight many battles. Finally to secure his kingdom, Arthur orders the death of all highborn sons. This action costs Arthur much support, but illustrates how far he will go to keep his kingdom intact. Arthur places great value on the friendship and loyalty of his men. Arthur forms the Round Table, a forum for knightly loyalty and fealty to crown. He also establishes a code of behavior, demanding that the knights be merciful, righteous, and honorable. One of Arthur's great strengths is the loyalty his men demonstrate for him. Even when Arthur makes a mistake in battle, his men quickly muster the strength to save both Arthur and his kingdom. He loves his knights so much that he ignores the love between Guinevere and Launcelot, until forced to act. His love for Launcelot is greater than his love for his queen. When he is forced to acknowledge his queen's love for Launcelot, he orders Guinevere burned and Launcelot banished, and only undertakes to fight Launcelot because Gawain insists upon it. Arthur dies in battle with Mordred, but not until after he has...
(The entire section is 275 words.)
Launcelot du Lake
Launcelot is the greatest of Arthur's knights, except for those who succeed in the Grail Quest. He gets his first real chance to distinguish himself in the battle against Lucius, when Launcelot steals Lucius' banner. Launcelot returns to England a hero after the war in Rome. He has many adventures and proves that he is virtuous and heroic. The queen is particularly impressed with Launcelot's heroic adventures. At this point, Launcelot represents the ideal in knightly behavior, except in one area. He is clearly working to serve the queen, rather than the king. Launcelot appears to forget that he is a member of Arthur's Round Table, not Guinevere's. Launcelot joins the Grail Quest, but he has too many sins to succeed. Launcelot's knightly deeds have all been in honor of Guinevere, not God. When Launcelot finally sees the Grail, he is struck down and lies in a coma for twenty-four days, and when he awakens, returns to Camelot. Launcelot forgets that it was his love for Guinevere that prevented him from succeeding in the Grail Quest, and he quickly returns to his old ways with Guinevere. When Melliagaunce kidnaps Guinevere, Launcelot rescues her, and he rescues her again when she is about to be burned for adultery. His loyalty is to Guinevere and it is this misguided loyalty that helps lead Arthur to his death. After the death of Arthur, Launcelot enters the priesthood and soon dies.
(The entire section is 237 words.)
Merlin is a master manipulator, who masters Arthur's conception and who, unseen, directs much of the action. As a great sorcerer, he is responsible for the creation of the Round Table. Merlin is both prophet and magician. Merlin arranges a truce between Kings Lot, Nantres, and Uriens, but then betrays the kings when he orders Arthur to attack. When Arthur loses his sword in battle, Merlin takes Arthur to the Lady of the Lake to retrieve it. Merlin provides Arthur with prophesies and he fixes the sword of Balyn so that only Launcelot or Galahad can use it, and when Arthur's life is threatened, Merlin steps in and saves the king. Merlin is opposed to Arthur's marriage to Guinevere, but is ignored. Merlin is able to assume disguises and appears before Arthur disguised as both a young boy and an old man. Merlin is directly responsible for everything that happens to Arthur. Although it initially appears that Merlin represents God, it soon becomes clear that he does not, and since he does not represent God, he must, according to the medieval world, represent the devil. Merlin meats his downfall when he falls in love with Nineve, who refuses to be bedded by Merlin but is willing to study his tricks. When she has learned his magic, Nineve has Merlin sealed alive in a cave where he must remain since only she can set him free.
(The entire section is 235 words.)
Agravaine is one of Gawain and Gareth's brothers and is also a nephew of Arthur. Along with his brother, Gaheris, Agravaine participates in Mordred's plots and in the murder of his mother.
Archbishop of Canterbury
It is the Archbishop, who in concert with Merlin, arranges for the gathering of the lords. This results in Arthur's successfully pulling Excalibur from the stone, and the lord's acceptance of him as their king.
Isolde la Blaunche Maynes
This Isolde is Tristram's wife, the Princess of Brittany. Tristram refuses to consummate the marriage and make this Isolde unhappy.
Lamorak de Galis
Lamorak is a knight famous for his valor and his strength. Only Launcelot and Gawain are stronger, but he is unarmed when Gawain and his brother kill him because he has an affair with their mother. Gawain cannot achieve greatness because of his role in Lamorak's death.
Bors de Ganis
Bors is one of the knights who accompanies Galahad on the Grail Quest. Like Percival, Bors is one of the purest of the knights, filled with humility and valor. He is rewarded for his purity when he is permitted to join Galahad in locating the Grail. Bors witnesses Galahad's death and ascension into heaven. He returns to the Round Table and describes his visions.
Sir Ector is given Arthur to raise. He is one of Arthur's brave and honorable...
(The entire section is 2281 words.)