Last Updated on August 15, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 423
Perceval is one of King Arthur's knights; he becomes a part of the Round Table after impressing the royal court at a tournament. Though initially arrogant, he becomes one of the greatest warriors in Camelot. He grows from a proud warrior who wants to prove he is the...
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- Critical Essays
Perceval is one of King Arthur's knights; he becomes a part of the Round Table after impressing the royal court at a tournament. Though initially arrogant, he becomes one of the greatest warriors in Camelot. He grows from a proud warrior who wants to prove he is the best to a wise, chaste hero, exceptional even by the standards of chivalry.
The Fisher King
The Fisher King is the man who currently possesses the Holy Grail. He was granted it by Joseph of Arimathea, who caught drops of Christ's blood in the grail during the crucifixion and was told he could not die until the purest knight in the world came to him. The Fisher King eventually teaches Sir Perceval the secrets of the grail, allowing him to be relieved of his immortality.
Galahad is the son of Sir Lancelot and Elaine of Corbenic. When Lancelot knighted Galahad as a member of the Round Table, neither father nor son knew of their blood relation. Much of the story follows Galahad's adventures during the quest to find the Holy Grail, rescuing damsels in distress and even besting his own father, Lancelot, in combat. He becomes the knight his father had the potential to be but fell short of when he betrayed his friend Arthur and the chivalric code.
Later in the quest, Galahad, Perceval, and Bors all arrive at Grail Castle, where Galahad sees Christ. After receiving visions of the grail, Galahad is eventually crowned king of Sarras. After this, he is given permission by God to at last die and come to heaven.
Out of the three knights who quest for the grail (the other two being Perceval and Galahad), Bors seems the weakest, not having as fine a combat record. His purity alone is what makes him worthy to help bring the quest to its fulfillment. At the end of the story, he is the one who reports back to King Arthur all that happened during the adventure.
Although he is one of King Arthur's most powerful knights, Lancelot is nevertheless a complicated figure. He values the code of chivalry but knows he is not worthy of the Holy Grail because he is not chaste, having fathered a son outside of marriage. He hopes to atone for his sins and become worthy of the quest to find the grail. Unfortunately, his lustful desires and greed prevent him from doing so. The newer generation of knights appear to have displaced him, signified by his son Galahad besting him in combat.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 570
Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea (er-ih-muh-THEE-uh), a disciple of Jesus who was present at the Crucifixion and asked Pontius Pilate for permission to bury Jesus. He, along with Nicodemus, cleansed Christ’s wounds prior to wrapping him in a shroud. While doing so, Joseph opened a wound, causing it to bleed. To prevent spilling of blood, he collected the drops in a chalice, believed to be the cup from which Christ drank during the Last Supper. For this, he was imprisoned by the Jews. While imprisoned, he was visited by the Holy Ghost. It is then that he was told of the secrets of the Grail and of its power. At this point, the quest of the Holy Grail begins.
Merlin, the illegitimate son of the devil, though he is certainly not evil. The devil, angry at the victory of Jesus, takes his revenge by raping a virgin, who, in turn, bears a son, Merlin, destined to be the wisest of all men and to oppose the teachings of Christ. He grows up to become a sorcerer in the court of Uther Pendragon, for whom he builds the Round Table. He controls the events that ultimately lead to the rise of King Arthur, son of Uther, and helps to guide the events that lead to Perceval’s quest for the Holy Grail.
Perceval, a knight of the Round Table, the hero. He begins his life not knowing of his destiny to seek the Grail. At first, he is prompted by his niece to go to the court of Arthur and seek a seat at the Round Table. Young and arrogant, he enters a tournament and wins. He requests a seat at the table, and King Arthur reluctantly gives in to the knight. It is at this point that he vows to be pure and chaste, and to take up the quest for the Grail. He remains the most powerful knight in the land, and he is never defeated. He is tempted by sin and lust but always resists. Eventually, he is led to the Holy Grail by Bron and saves Britain from its plagues and curses by learning the secrets of the Grail. He is the purest of all knights.
King Arthur, king of the Britons, a powerful and just king. He rules from the Round Table, at which all knights are equal and all is just. He is wise and at first does not like the arrogance of the young Perceval. He is well aware that there is a vacant seat at the Round Table for the purest knight in the world. When Perceval asks to sit in the seat, he argues against it. After he gives in and Perceval sits, the table and ground shake and thunder shatters the air. Arthur sees the Holy Ghost speak, and Perceval changes instantly from arrogant to pure and chaste. He then knew that the quest spoken of by Merlin would begin.
The Fisher King
The Fisher King, the second person to possess the Holy Grail. It was passed to him by Joseph of Arimathea. He is the greatest of fisherman and is told that he cannot die, but will remain old and frail until the coming of the purest knight in the world. Only to him would he pass the Grail and its secrets. Once this was achieved, the Fisher King was allowed to die peacefully.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 125
Nutt, Alfred. Studies on the Legend of the Holy Grail. New York: Cooper Square, 1965. Focuses on the Celtic origins of the tale. A good starting text for the serious student.
Waite, Arthur Edward. The Holy Grail: The Galahad Quest in the Arthurian Literature. New York: University Books, 1961. Approaches the mystical side of the tale, providing new insight.
Weston, Jessie L. The Quest of the Holy Grail. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1964. This classic on the subject of the Grail was first published in 1913, but remains one of the clearest descriptions of the Grail cycle.
Wilhelm, James J., ed. The Romance of Arthur: An Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation. New York: Garland, 1994. Critical edition of some of the best translations of early Arthurian literature.