Lancelot


Lancelot plays a traditional role in Arthurian legends; however he is a multifaceted character.


He is torn between his duty as a knight, his best friend Arthur, his love for Guinevere, and Elaine’s unrequited love for him.


In some of these roles Lancelot is seen as the most perfect male figure throughout the legends, however in others, we see his flaws come through.


This is seen in the quote: "great and guilty love he bare the Queen / In breath with the love he bare his lord"


In his duties as a knight, Lancelot is portrayed as being brave, chivalric, courageous, archetypal, strong, and noble.


All of these characteristics show Lancelot’s compliance to the traditional Arthurian knightly code of chivalry.


For example, Lancelot’s trait of invincibility is revealed as he has won the diamond in the diamond joust for 8 consecutive years, proving him to be “mightiest … in use of arms and manhood”


Lancelot also shows loyalty to King Arthur, being his greatest knight.


Lancelot expresses his loyalty to the King in the following quote: “I never saw his like; there lives no greater leader”


In Lancelot’s relationship with Guinevere the traditions of courtly love are revealed.


This can be seen in Tennyson’s description of the two: “Lancelot, the flower of bravery, Guinevere, the pearl of beauty”


However, when we look deeper into the relationship we see that Lancelot is completely controlled by Guinevere.


For example when Lancelot thinks that Guinevere is sick, he willingly gives up the hopes of going to the joust and winning the ninth diamond, in order to stay home with her.


This is seen in the following quote: “Are you so sick, my Queen, you cannot move to these fair jousts?”
"Then will ye miss,"


In Lancelot’s relationship with Elaine, we see him as a kind of affectionate older brother, not feeling the romantic love for Elaine that she feels for him, but loving her nonetheless.


His commitment to her emotionally and his concern for her welfare has an element of purity and innocence that is not found in his relationship with Guinevere.


We see this at the end of the poem when Lancelot is devastated over her death.


His relationship with Elaine adds a new dimension to the famed knight, making him more than just an archetypal hero and lover, but a man of real compassion and emotion.


Lancelot is a very complex character, who has a battle within his own heart.


Tennyson uses the joust as a symbol for Lancelot’s struggle with himself.


As Lancelot wants to go to the joust and uphold his great status as a knight, he also wants to stay home with his Guinevere. This then, causes him to lie to Arthur, and he consequently meets Elaine.