The Once and Future King

by: T. H. White

Important Quotations Explained

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Why can’t you harness Might so that it works for Right?… The Might is there, in the bad half of people, and you can’t neglect it.

Arthur utters these words in a speech from Book II, Chapter 6, in which he first articulates the philosophy that is to make him such a great ruler. He synthesizes the lessons he has learned from Merlyn and decides to use his new position of king to harness physical force to establish morality. He expresses his belief that the proper function of power is to subordinate might to right. This idea may seem simplistic to modern readers, but White presents a medieval world in which force is blindly equated with justice and shows that it is truly innovative for Arthur to draw a distinction between power and justice. Essentially, White shows that Arthur is a king worth remembering not for his heroism or his military exploits, but because he champions the idea of civilized society. He recognizes that all people have a good side and a bad side and thinks his political philosophy will allow him to harness people’s bad sides for the common good. For example, knights who long to fight will still be able to fight, but they will fight against those who do evil deeds rather than fight for its own sake.