Le Morte d'Arthur

by Thomas Malory
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In Le Morte d'Arthur, what is considered “good" or moral behavior? What is considered “bad" or immoral behavior?

What is considered “good" or moral behavior in Le Morte d'Arthur is staying true to the values of chivalry. What is considered “bad" or immoral in Le Morte d'Arthur is anything that violates the chivalric code, such as adultery.

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In very simple terms, one could say that what is morally good in Le Morte d'Arthur consists of adhering to the chivalric code as well as the teachings of the church. And what is morally bad involves violating those moral standards. The chivalric code is a set of high moral...

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In very simple terms, one could say that what is morally good in Le Morte d'Arthur consists of adhering to the chivalric code as well as the teachings of the church. And what is morally bad involves violating those moral standards. The chivalric code is a set of high moral standards to which the Knights of the Round Table are meant to adhere at all times. The code is extensive and covers a wide spectrum of behavior, but one of its most important aspects concerns respecting the honor of women, which, among other things, means refraining from committing adultery, as that would, however unjustly, sully a woman's reputation in the eyes of society.

Not only was adultery a violation of the church's teachings, it was also widely regarded as both dishonorable and disloyal. As we can see in Le Morte d'Arthur, adultery is one of the main causes of the downfall of the Round Table and the death of King Arthur. The illicit affair between Lancelot and Guinevere is particularly serious, as it inevitably leads to a breaking of the sacred bond that had previously bound the king and one of his most loyal knights together.

As the example of Sir Lancelot demonstrates, sticking to the prevailing moral code is a lot easier said than done. High moral standards are one thing, but people are fallible and at some point will act immorally. In most cases, this isn't usually a problem. But when we're dealing with knights of the realm, who constitute a moral as well as a martial elite, then even the slightest hint of backsliding can have very grievous consequences indeed. They are held, and hold themselves, to a higher moral standard than everyone else, so when they fall from grace the effect is much more powerful and far-reaching than in cases where similar sins are committed by perceived lesser mortals.

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