Women’s Role In The Ill Made Knight Presence of Women in The Ill Made Knight Throughout the story The Ill made Knight, in T.H. Whites novel The Once and Future King, women are portrayed as the cause of the destruction of Sir Lancelot’s morality. Guenevere’s ascendancy of Lancelot’s love, Elaine’s attempts at luring Lancelot into her life, and Queen Morgan Le Fay’s enticing ways all depict women as the sole source for the ethical debauchery of Sir Lancelot. Guenevere, married to King Arthur, is the possessor of Lancelot’s mortal love. Because Lancelot has an intense devotion for his ruler and friend Arthur, this situation causes him much turmoil. Lancelot tries hard in the beginning to disguise his feelings, however Guenevere reciprocates and the two court each other secretly and guiltily.
Faith also creates a problem for Lancelot. One reason for his dilemma was that he was a Christian, (367). Lancelot desired Guenevere more than anything but because he was a devout Christian he could never possess her. Guenevere, however much in love with Lancelot, still loved her husband dearly. In some way such as this Guenevere did come to love her Frenchman without losing her affection for Arthur, (362).
Not being her one and only love made life almost unbearable for Lancelot at times. It is almost too much for Lancelot to withstand when Guenevere accuses him of being in love with a woman other than she. ‘You are in love with her and deceiving me, I thought so all along,’ (385). These words from Guenevere are a stab to Lancelot’s psychological endurance. Such a burdensome situation puts a major strain on Lancelot’s virtues. Elaine puts Lancelot’s ethics to an incredible test.
This woman wrongfully plots and seduces Lancelot, stealing his holiness deceitfully. After fooling him into thinking she were Guenevere, Elaine demoralizes him in the night. After realizing what has happened the cost of her treachery is clear. ‘ You have stolen my miracles. You have stolen my being the best knight,’ (376).
It had always been Lancelot’s desire to be holy and able to perform miracles. Now because of Elaine, he will never be able to. This infuriates Lancelot, and breeds contempt towards Elaine. Elaine knew exactly what she was doing, and had ulterior motives for sleeping with Sir Lancelot. ‘ I want to have your baby,’ said Elaine. ‘ I shall call him Galahad, like your first name’ (377). Elaine succeeds in becoming pregnant with his baby and journeys to Camelot later in life in a further attempt to win his love.
During her stay at Camelot she deceives Lancelot in the same fashion a second time, The usual conniving hand had led him by the finger on tip toe to the chosen bed, (394). Believing the woman in the darkness to be Guenevere Lance spends the night in the chamber he believes to Guenevere’s. When Guenevere learns that he has done so against her wishes she casts him away, and he goes into a spell of insanity that lasts several years. It is the sole responsibility of these two women that cause the collapse of Lancelot’s values. Morgan Le Fay is also depicted as a woman who tries to unravel Lancelot’s inhibitions.
This woman is not directly responsible for the destruction of his sanity but through her character the idea of women being underhanded and deceitful is present. The Queen, as did her fellow queen’s, wanted Lancelot for their magic. They began to quarrel among themselves, about which of them should have him for their magic,(343). Presenting these women as fighting over whom gets to demoralize him shows the omnipresent notion that women are petty and selfish. ‘ I will put an enchantment on him so that he does not wake for six hours.
When we have brought him safely into our castle he can choose which one of us he will have,'(343). The fact that the women are scheming unfairly and behind his back shows a typical view of females which was common of the time period and a recurring theme in the novel. Women are also portrayed as being evil by using their sexuality for personal gain. ‘We four queens have you in our power, and you have to choose which one of us you will have for your mistress,'(344). This statement by Le Fay is an example of how women use seduction to get what they want.
Morgan and her queens were not successful, but they played a role in attempting to ruin Lancelot’s principles. Not all women in the novel played the role of attempting to corrupt Sir Lancelot. However the main role of Guenevere, Elaine, and Le Fay was to show the universal idea that women were duplicitous. Bibliography The Once and Future King By T.h. White English Essays.