Lancelot: Or, The Knight of the Cart

by Chrétien de Troyes

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How is Lancelot presented in the romance Lancelot: Or, The Knight of the Cart by Chrétien de Troyes?

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Lancelot is presented in Chretien's romance as a recognizably human figure, a heroic knight, yet at the same time a man with numerous flaws.

Lancelot may be a hero in many respects, someone to emulate and admire. But at the end of the day, he's only human, and in his case, that means that he lies to his liege lord, King Arthur; has an affair with the king's wife, Guinevere; and regularly violates the chivalric code of honor in doing both of these things.

Chretien presents Lancelot as someone tormented by an internal conflict that never seems to end. On one hand, he wants to do his duty, to do what's right by his king, and to uphold the finest traditions of chivalry. On the other, he's overcome by the power of love, which often leads him away from performing his knightly duties.

By the time we reach the end of Chretien's romance, it seems that Lancelot, along with Guinevere, has managed to restrain his impulses a little, has come to understand that love needs to be tempered with reason if it is to endure. Nonetheless, Lancelot is still pursuing an illicit affair with his liege lord's wife and, in doing so, is behaving in a manner ill-befitting of a noble knight.

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