The Once and Future King

by: T. H. White

Important Quotations Explained

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It was in the nature of [Arthur’s] bold mind to hope, in these circumstances, that he would not find [Lancelot and Guenever] together. . . . [H]e was hoping to weather the trouble by refusing to become conscious of it.

This passage from Book III, Chapter 16 describes Arthur’s attitude toward the love affair between Lancelot and Guenever. In the end, Arthur’s complacency in these early stages of the affair leads to his downfall, as he is forced to put a stop to the affair after it has gone too far. This quotation describes Arthur’s simpleminded yet optimistic reaction to his unconscious suspicion that Lancelot and Guenever have betrayed him. Arthur suppresses his fears because he loves and trusts them both. Once he accepts that the people he loves have sinned against him, he chooses to ignore their sin to preserve their love. Arthur’s self-sacrifice is typical of his behavior, and is one of the qualities that makes him a sympathetic character rather than merely a pathetic one. Arthur is not fooled by Lancelot and Guenever’s lies, but he makes a deliberate choice not to see through them, so as to protect his loved ones’ happiness. Society would consider his wife’s adultery treason and call for Guenever and Lancelot to be executed, so Arthur sacrifices his own happiness to cover up their betrayal and save their lives.