Idylls of the King

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Young Arthur establishes his kingdom, marries Guinevere, and prospers for a time in Camelot. Sir Gareth, inspired by his King, is able to overcome significant odds to secure a maiden’s release and win the hand of his beloved.

Soon, however, suspicion begins to divide the realm. Sir Geraint removes his bride Enid from Camelot to wander through the land and almost dies before he is convinced of his wife’s fidelity. Twins Balin and Balan kill each other because the former fails to recognize his brother, who has been driven to madness by his knowledge of the Queen’s infidelity with Lancelot. Merlin gives in to the wishes of the temptress Vivien, who imprisons him in an oak tree. Lancelot’s refusal to put aside his adulterous relationship with the Queen to marry Elaine leads to her suicide.

The knights engage in a futile quest for the Holy Grail; the Round Table is decimated. Knights admitted to the fellowship to fill the void prove incapable, as the story of Pelleas illustrates. Finally, Camelot is turned upside down at the Last Tournament, where Tristram wins the prize for his paramour Isolt.

Open rebellion breaks out, causing Guinevere to flee to a convent, where she confronts her King and finally admits her mistake. Events have proceeded too far, however, and Arthur falls to Mordred in a final battle. His faithful knight Bedivere sees him taken away, but whether he dies or is removed to heaven remains a mystery.


(The entire section is 585 words.)