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The Once and Future King

T. H. White

Book III: “The Ill-Made Knight,” Chapters 38–45

Book III: “The Ill-Made Knight,” Chapters 30–37

Book III: “The Ill-Made Knight,” Chapters 38–45, page 2

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Summary: Chapter 38

The day after Lancelot defends Guenever’s honor, Nimue arrives and confirms that Guenever is innocent of poisoning the knight who died. This announcement comes as part of her promise to Merlyn to look after Arthur. Arthur decides to hold a tournament to celebrate Guenever’s acquittal.

Summary: Chapter 39

Lancelot visits Elaine, who tells him that he must now stay with her. He agrees to wear her favor, a red sleeve, on his helmet during the tournament. Lancelot fights valiantly, but is wounded near the end of the tournament when three knights attack him at once. When Guenever hears about Elaine’s favor, she becomes jealous and angry, convinced that Lancelot loves Elaine.

Summary: Chapter 40

When Lancelot returns to Camelot, he and Guenever fight. Finally aware that Lancelot does not love her and will never return to her, Elaine commits suicide. Her body is put in a barge, which drifts down to Camelot for all to see. At the sight of her dead rival, Guenever is filled with pity.

Summary: Chapter 41

At another tournament soon after Elaine’s suicide, the lines between the Round Table’s factions become clear. Arthur sides against Lancelot for the first time, and Gareth sides with Lancelot against his own brothers. One day, Lancelot and Arthur hear that Guenever has been captured by a knight named Sir Meliagrance who has secretly been in love with her.

Summary: Chapter 42

Meliagrance sets an ambush for Lancelot, but Lancelot manages to get through it and into the castle where Guenever is held captive. Meliagrance, knowing he will lose any battle with Lancelot, gives up and begs Guenever to forgive him. Lancelot consents to Guenever’s request not to kill Meliagrance.

Summary: Chapter 43

That night, Lancelot cuts through the bars of the window of Guenever’s room, and the two sleep together for the first time in a long while. Lancelot cuts his hand as he breaks into her room. The next morning, Meliagrance discovers Lancelot’s blood on Guenever’s bed and accuses her of sleeping with one of the knights who guard her chamber, many of whom were wounded when she was kidnapped. Guenever denies the accusation. Her denial is accurate, since Lancelot is not one of the knights guarding her chamber. Lancelot offers to defend Guenever’s honor in combat. Meliagrance, knowing he is no match for Lancelot, traps him in a dungeon in his castle.

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