Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Lancelot, the best knight in the world and the lover of the queen. He is a warrior but has some peculiarities that undermine him, and they all stem from his love. He is prone to contemplate rather than take action. Seeing an attempted rape, he debates whether to intervene; caught between love and honor, he debates whether to leap into the cart to save Guenevere. More seriously, perhaps, he is forever swooning whenever he thinks of Guenevere. At one point, he finds a comb in which is a single strand of her hair, and he nearly falls off his horse. At another point, he is so wrapped up in thoughts of her that he does not hear another knight’s challenge. It is only when the knight knocks him from his horse into a river that he is shaken from his reverie.


Guenevere, the queen of Logres, the most beautiful lady in the kingdom. In accordance with the dictates of courtly love, she is also somewhat fickle. She is Lancelot’s inspiration—without her, his prowess would come to naught. When he finally meets her in Meleagant’s castle, having rescued her and all the prisoners, she turns her back on him and walks out of the room without so much as speaking to him. She later explains that this was because he hesitated before getting into the cart and therefore must have considered his honor more important than his love. Her genuine affection for him is revealed, however, in her suicidal attitude when she believes him dead, though toward the end of the poem, she once more demonstrates her power over...

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