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The Once and Future King

T. H. White

Book IV: “The Candle in the Wind,” Chapters 1–6

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

Book IV: “The Candle in the Wind,” Chapters 1–6, page 2

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Summary: Chapter 1

Much time has passed. Agravaine is now fifty-five years old, fat and a borderline alcoholic. Mordred hates Arthur because he believes that Arthur abandoned him to die as an infant and because of the long-running feud between his mother’s family and Arthur’s. Agravaine hates Lancelot because Lancelot has defeated him in jousts countless times. They decide that the best way to get revenge on Arthur and Lancelot is to make Lancelot’s affair with Guenever known to Arthur. Arthur will then have to prosecute Lancelot under the new system of laws he is trying to establish, and they will then destroy each other.

Summary: Chapter 2

Gawaine, Gaheris, and Gareth enter the room. When Gawaine finds out about Mordred and Agravaine’s plot, he forbids them to go through with it. Mordred refuses to follow his orders. Agravaine, still a coward, pulls his sword on his unarmed brother, and Gawaine goes into a rage. He is on the verge of killing Agravaine when Arthur walks in, smiling benevolently at all of them.

Summary: Chapter 3

Lancelot and Guenever sit by a window in Arthur’s castle. The narrator describes the new England that they see before them. Arthur’s reign has put an end to the horrors of the past. There is a burgeoning of artistic accomplishment, and different kinds of people mingle on the city streets.

Summary: Chapter 4

Lancelot tells Guenever that Arthur knows all about their affair and will not punish them, but Guenever says they must be careful nonetheless. Lancelot is troubled because he loves Arthur too much to hurt him, but loves Guenever too much to leave her. Arthur steps into the door and hears them talking, but he quietly disappears to get a page to announce his presence. When Arthur returns, he, Lancelot, and Guenever have an awkward conversation about the Orkney family. Arthur tells them that Mordred is his son. He tells them too that he had heard horrible prophesies about Mordred and tried to kill him. Arthur, who was only nineteen at the time, ordered that all the babies of a certain age be put out to sea, but somehow Mordred survived. Arthur regrets his decision now and warns that Mordred is out for revenge and for the throne and that Mordred might try to use Guenever or Lancelot against him. He informs them that if he catches either of them working against his kingdom, he will be forced to prosecute the offender as the law sees fit.

Summary: Chapter 5

Arthur goes to the Justice Room to work on the new laws. Gawaine, Gareth, Gaheris, Agravaine, and Mordred are there when he arrives. Gawaine, Gareth, and Gaheris have been trying to persuade Agravaine and Mordred not to tell Arthur about Lancelot and Guenever’s affair, but when Arthur arrives, they tell him anyway, insisting that the matter should be decided by the new jury laws and not by combat. They say that if they can produce proof of the adultery, then Arthur is legally bound to bring the matter to trial. They tell Arthur that they will try to capture Lancelot in Guenever’s room while Arthur is away hunting. Arthur eventually consents to their plan, but hopes aloud that Lancelot will kill all of his accusers. He also tells Agravaine and Mordred that if their accusation cannot be proven, he will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.

Summary: Chapter 6

The first night that Arthur is away, Lancelot prepares to go to Guenever’s quarters. Gareth warns him that Mordred and Agravaine plan to trap him in her room, but Lancelot ignores his warning.

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