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The tale of King Arthur and his knights was characterized by glory, chivalry, and honor. However, it seems like the author, Sir Thomas Malory, wanted his readers to know that a utopian world is impossible if it is governed by frail humans. In this line of thought, the proponent of this study pinpoints the beginning of the end in Book XX. This is one of the most critical parts of the story because when Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred attempted to discredit Queen Guenever on account of adultery, the scandal that ensued destroyed Camelot’s internal social structure.
Arthur and His Knights
It is imperative to consider Merriam-Webster’s definition of a knight: “a man who is given special honor and the title of Sir by the king or queen of England”, to understand the first component of Camelot’s internal social structure (1). Without a doubt, the aforementioned definition is a modern depiction of the medieval warriors that captured the imagination of people all over the world. Nonetheless, this interpretation is not far from the original usage of the said term. Knights of old were never classed in the same manner as ordinary soldiers. Knighthood was usually given by social rank and other admirable qualities that defined the person who carried the said title.
In King Arthur’s court, his knights clarified the meaning of nobility, as a title given not only to the landed gentry but also as a badge of honor earned through heroic exploits. Reading through the story of King Arthur and his knights remind the reader of an ancient paradigm that reverberates through the annals of human history, and this is none other than the desire of great leaders to build a city like Rome or Persepolis. In other words, a recurring theme exists that inspires great leaders to build a city where the people are civilized, and governed by laws that help to bring out the best in everyone.
In an ideal scenario, Camelot is being ruled by a warrior-king supported by a group of knights bound to him by an oath of honor and righteousness. Be that as it may, Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred’s accusation threatened to destroy Camelot’s unique legislative and law enforcement system. Sir Lancelot’s reputation as the kingdom’s best knight, added another layer of tension to the story. It is crucial to perceive Lancelot as a law enforcement officer of the highest rank. As a result, the allegation of misconduct weakened Camelot’s moral ascendancy over other kingdoms.
The Critical Importance of the Queen
King Arthur’s deep affection for his queen was evident throughout the story. However, it is important to point out that she was not a trophy wife. She was beautiful and intelligent, but her admirable qualities did not only serve to enhance the king’s position because her intellect and diplomatic skills were utilized to shape Camelot into an ideal form of government. It is not difficult to imagine Guenever’s value as a co-ruler after reviewing the influential careers of English queens from medieval to contemporary times. In other words, Queen Guenever’s ideas and pronouncements weighed heavy on the hearts and minds of the Knights of the Round Table.
Sir Mordred and Sir Agravaine’s accusation carried with it the force of a military onslaught because these men were members of King Arthur’s inner circle. Camelot’s political apparatus was like a well-oiled machine when the knights were inspired to serve. However, once the word got out that the second most powerful person in the land was guilty of committing adultery with arguably the third most powerful leader in the person of Sir Lancelot, it created a scandal that caused a great deal of irreparable damage to Camelot.
Even if the accusation was proven untrue, there seems no hope of restoring the type of synergy created by knights working in harmony and respect for one another. The seeds of destruction are apparent if the reader dwells on the following line: “it befell great anger and unhappy that stinted not till the flower of chivalry of all the world was destroyed and slain, and all was long upon two unhappy knights the which were named Agravaine and Sir Mordred” (Malory 688; bk. 20; ch.1). In the end, the accusers found evidentiary support concerning the allegations made. Thus, the venom in Mordred and Agravaine’s anger required a level of appeasement that eventually destroyed the glory of Camelot.
Mordred and Agravaine’s attempt to disclose the adulterous relationship between Queen Guenever and Sir Lancelot was one of the most important elements in the tale of King Arthur and his knights. A deeper look into the political and social structure that held Camelot together magnified the meaning and significance of the said disclosure. This act created an unresolvable dilemma because even if proven false, the accusation ensured the destruction of the happy and productive relationships of the Knights of the Round Table. However, it was more than a rumor and the scandal that ensued destroyed Camelot’s inner social structure – the foundation for the kingdom’s unique legislative and law enforcement apparatus.
“Knight.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2016. Web.
Malory, Thomas. Le Morte d’Arthur. 2016. Web.