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Lancelot is the protagonist of Book III and the greatest
knight in the company of the Round Table. He is Arthur’s best friend
and a powerful foil for the king since he is complex and full of
contradictions. Lancelot is also Arthur’s opposite in that, while
he is always able to take swift and decisive action, he is rarely
able to use this ability to make the world a better place. Even
when Lancelot performs a heroic deed, he does so accidentally, not
because he has heroic ideals or good intentions. Lancelot’s ugliness
gives him a sense of unworthiness and inadequacy from a very young
age, but this low self-esteem is paired with an astonishing, almost
unnatural talent for all knightly skills and endeavors. The ease
with which Lancelot wins glory as a knight, combined with his gnawing
sense of inferiority, is the source of most of his contradictions.
Lancelot is both religious and lustful, both hideous and exalted,
both meek and violent. He is simultaneously Arthur’s best friend
Lancelot is a prisoner of such contradictions. His own
complexity keeps him from growing as a person, since he is too humble
to exalt in his success and allow it to improve his self-image.
Cutting through all of these contradictions is Lancelot’s unyielding,
passionate love for Guenever; ultimately, their affair becomes both
the best and the worst thing to happen to him. Lancelot’s love for
Guenever provides Lancelot with moments of bliss but also compounds
his guilt and leads to his downfall.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Once and Future King!