The Once and Future King Part 4, Chapters 1-3 Summary

T. H. White

Part 4, Chapters 1-3 Summary

The Orkney brothers, Agravaine and Mordred, discuss their hatred for King Arthur. Mordred despises the father who never acknowledged him, claiming that he set him to sea at birth in order to drown him. Agravaine’s feelings are less intense, but he is willing to side with Mordred. Born with a crooked shoulder, as well as being illegitimate and the product of incest, Mordred has a vendetta against the world, which he visualizes in the person of King Arthur. Agravaine tells him that they will need something more than a personal grudge to start a war. Mordred suggests to Agravaine that they take out their vengeance on Lancelot by publicly accusing him of adultery with Queen Guenever. This is widely known, and has been for years, and both of them know that Arthur is aware of it. Mordred says that with Arthur’s new laws, the matter will have to be officially investigated. The days of trial by combat are over, thanks to Arthur’s new kingdom of Right.

Agravaine and Mordred are then joined by their brothers Gawaine, Gaheris, and Gareth. When Agravaine makes remarks about Guenever and Lancelot, Gawaine tells him to cease speaking against the king. Agravaine and Mordred bring up Arthur’s past actions against their family, and matters come to a head when the two conspirators attempt to leave in order to confront Arthur with the truth. When Gawaine blocks the door, Agravaine pulls out his sword. The two brothers engage in combat, but they are interrupted by Arthur himself, who enters, kisses Mordred, and smiles on the others.

Sir Lancelot and Queen Guenever look out the solar window at the kingdom below. They are past middle age yet reject the modern idea that love is only for the young. Arthur’s England has risen from a time of chaos and anarchy, where nature and man preyed on the innocent. It is a time of law and culture, despite the name of the Dark Ages. Arthur had inherited an England where rulers ruled by force and terror. Now Arthur has turned it into a realm of beauty and reverence. The Catholic Church is in a position of respect and influence where it can impose the Peace of God across the realm from a Wednesday to the following Monday. It is the Age of the Individual, when each person can seek his own path in the pursuit of happiness. This is the world that Arthur has created as the most civilized monarch in Christendom.