The Once and Future King

by: T. H. White

Guenever

Queen Guenever is the third figure in the love triangle that dominates the novel’s second half. She is also the least developed of the novel’s central triad, which is consistent with White’s tendency to focus on male characters. White often stereotypically describes women as being girlish or needy, like Elaine, or as cruel vamps, like Morgause. Unlike Arthur and Lancelot, Guenever does not seem to have any particularly remarkable qualities that mark her as a great or noteworthy queen. She is beautiful, but she is also jealous, selfish, petty, and shallow. Guenever is capable of love, and she loves Arthur as genuinely as she loves Lancelot, though not as passionately. While Lancelot’s guilt about their affair reaches epic proportions and threatens to destroy him, any guilt Guenever feels is secondary to her constant craving to be with Lancelot. She even handles their cover-up badly, and at one point she is visibly excited to be reunited with Lancelot even in front of Arthur. As Guenever ages, she tries desperately to stay young and beautiful, as her pathetic attempts to cover her flaws with too much makeup demonstrate. In the novel’s third book, “The Ill-Made Knight,” White writes that it is “difficult to imagine” Guenever, and this difficulty translates to her role in the novel. She is a central character, but she is important more for the way others feel about her than for anything she herself does or feels.