This study examines different characters in “King Arthur” change in terms of behaviors and traits in the course of the myth. This is examined to explicate the way an individual’s behavior can be altered or adjusted by their living conditions, or rather what they go through. Some of the characters that are examined in this analysis include King Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, Gawain, and Mordred. This is then followed by my reflection in regards to what the mentioned characters went through. The target audience in the study includes students of literature who would benefit from the ideas expressed herein in order to nurture their skills in literary analysis. It is also important to mention that the book itself, which is cited and referenced according to intellectual property laws, influences the ideas expressed in this study.
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To begin with, the story exposes the readers to an experience with a great king. King Arthur is well nurtured and intelligent enough to deal with every situation without going out of his way. However, something unfortunate surrounds king Arthur that drives him on the negative path of his growth as a great king (Rosenberg 421). However, the influenced of people like Launcelot and Gwenevere leads him to awkward behaviors that disappoints his followers and the readers, who would prefer him to King Mark. In the case of Launcelot and Gwenevere, he remains reluctant and even wants Mordred and Aggravayne to settle their matter amongst themselves without him intervening. This becomes the starting point of his failure as a leader, more so in the Round Table as the love affair between Launcelot and Gwenyvere leads to war among the knights. The king even goes ahead to have sex with his own sister and ends up having a son called Mordred, though unaware that the woman is his sister. The question that the readers would ask is whether he is justified to have sex with a strange woman (Rosenberg 423). However, he does so because he lacks good role models around him. He goes ahead to be brutal following the wrong pieces of advice by people like Merlin. Merlin tells him to kill all the baby boys born during the month of May that year. This is a great failure to a man of stature like him, but indeed, it is due to his conditions that he does so., but it is a condition caused by the people around him.
Another character that is faced with circumstances is Lancelot, who hails from a very unfortunate background. In fact, the readers, at first sight, would sympathize with him growing as an abandoned child. His mother, Helen had abandoned him following the death of his mother, only to be rescued by the lady of the Lake, Niniane. She took care of him and educated him before being incorporated into the group of Knights. He had all the admirable qualities of a prince, and due to that, many people referred to him as a prince, though his identity was never revealed to him by that time (Dean 14). He was clueless about his background, including his parents and real name. The story indicates that his original name was Gelahad, not Lancelot. Later, while serving King Arthur, his true identity was revealed to him, though he remained the best knight for that matter. However, something happens to him that compromises his good reputation. When serving as a great knight, everyone becomes curious to know who he is, including the king’s wife, Queen Guinevere. During this process, he becomes so attracted to the queen’s beauty that ends him having an affair with her. Sir Yvain, who takes care of the training tries to save him during his first encounter with the queen who wants to know his name, even if he says that he does not know. This points out that even though he was a good knight with admirable qualities, his background and the people around him influences him to be a bad person. If the queen would not have created too much contact with him, maybe, he would not have done such a thing.
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Another victim of circumstances in the story is Queen Guinevere, the wife of the king. She is a startling beauty of the novel, and in fact, nobody can wish away his outstanding beauty. Due to his beauty, men kept following her to an extent that even when she was married to the king, she could not be faithful (Rosenberg 430). She is one of the characters in the novel that makes the readers desire to know more about. She would have been a good woman, but a number of things happened that makes her a bad woman. Firstly, she was given a lot of good information about one of the great knights called Lancelot and wanted to know more about him. Out of this curiosity, she made some weird contacts with him, something that ended up seeing the two in a bed. Secondly, King Arthur had had an affair out of wedlock, and as a result, bore a son by the name Mordred, which was a betrayal of her. The third thing is about her sterling beauty that everybody was talking about. Even though someone would argue that she lured Lancelot into an affair with him, it is also a matter of the people talking big about them.
An additional victim in the story is Gawain, who is pushed into some behaviors through his background. As he sets out for the journey to leave Camelot, he experiences challenges that leads him to the hands of the lord of the castle. The Lord introduces him to his lady and an old woman. The host, who is later revealed to the reader as Bertilak strikes a deal with him and says that he and his men would go out hunting, and when they come back, would exchange his catch in return to what Gawain has acquired while he was away. The readers experience the lord’s wife sneaking into his room to kiss, him, something that is repeated even when Gawain is not aware. This is an act of cheating, but from the readings, Gawain seems to have been pushed into doing so, even if he appeared to be reluctant.
Mordred is also a character whose condition pushed him to become what he did not wish of himself. He was born out of wedlock by King Arthur, who upon realizing that he had a son with his sister intended to kill all the boys born during that time. Fortunately enough, the ship they were carried in while on the trails to be killed wrecked and he survived. An angler who gave him to Duke Nabur to keep him as a foster child rescued him (Rosenberg 443). Upon returning to King Arthur to become a knight, he was not liked due to his character of having affairs with married women, and in fact, he could even beat the husbands to the women he was dating. He was only liked because of his brother, Gawain who was said to be a good person. Out of his background, he later organized a deal with Queen Guinevere and Lancelot to kill the king. This is because of the bitterness he had in his heart after the king had planned his earlier death. In other words, he was doing so for vengeance.
In conclusion, I relate more to Mordred. At times, things that happen in life would affect an individual’s worldview. One would not wish to be a bad person, but conditions force people to be bad. This character sought vengeance after realizing that his death was planned, yet he was innocent. The king had an affair with his mother and wanted to have him pay for it.
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- Dean, Christopher. Arthur of England: English attitudes to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. University of Toronto Press, 1987.
- Rosenberg, Donna. World mythology: an anthology of the great myths and epics. Instructor’s manual. NTC publishing group, 1995: 421-453.