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Arthur, King of Time and Space Arthur, King of Time and Space

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Arthur, King of Time and Space


I got an A on this.
Paul Gadzikowski
English 120 - Whitney
October 7, 2005

                     Cultural Activity #1: Eliduc and Lancelot
                                By Paul Gadzikowski

     The things that struck me on reading Marie de France's lais Eliduc were

the similarities and contrasts between this story and the classic love

triangle stories of Camelot. Marie de France was a contemporary of Chretien

de Troyes, author of the oldest work known containing the character Lancelot.

Lancelot, like Eliduc, is a knight of wide renown for his prowess and honor

and, like Eliduc, has his life torn apart by a passion outside the bounds of

the laws of man. But everything works out for Eliduc and his new girl, while

Lancelot ends up blamed for the fall of a great kingdom.

     Another difference between them is the amount of subsequent treatment

since the twelfth century. Eliduc seems to owe his place in literature solely

to Marie de France but Lancelot's love for Queen Guenevere has been reworked

more and more often as time goes by. In the so-called Old French Vulgate

cycle of Arthurian epic, c. 1250, Lancelot's sin is blamed for his failure to

achieve the Holy Grail quest and for the fall of the kingdom, when Arthur -

portrayed in those times as not a little foggy-minded and foolish - discovers

the affair. In Le Morte d'Arthur, c. 1470, Lancelot and Guenevere are

portrayed more sympathetically, often called "true" (actually "trew" I think)

lovers despite the technicality of extramarital adultery; and Arthur, while

not explicitly complicit, acknowledges the affair only when the story's

villains make it legally impossible for him to ignore it.

     In The Once and Future King, c. 1940, and the movie Camelot based on it,

1967, Lancelot and Guenevere love Arthur almost as much as each other, and he

them, willingly turning a blind eye to the affair. Surely not until modern

times could a character in such a personally painful position maintain so

compassionate, open-hearted, progressive an attitude to those who betray him,

even those he loves best himself.

     Yet, in Eliduc, the betrayed wife responds to the situation with the

merest token regret for her own loss, and from then on acts with efficiency

and inspiration to get her husband and his mistress to set up housekeeping

and to put herself into orders out of the way, motivated by the love she

still holds for her husband. Through their subsequent lives they remain on

such good terms with each other and God that when Eliduc dies the second wife

joins the first wife in the nunnery and the approval of God for the entire

business is evoked. All this, in a work contemporary to the very creation of

the Lancelot character.


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Webcomics I read M-W-F evenings: Reasoned Cognition,
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Webcomics I read Tu-Th-Sa evenings: Casey & Andy,
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Arthuriana sources I use or recommend:
Arthurian Legend
Arthuriana - the Journal of Arthurian Studies; the website of the quarterly journal of the North American Branch of the International Arthurian Society.
The Camelot Project at the University of Rochester.
Camelot In Four Colors: A Survey of the Arthurian Legend in Comics
Mystical-WWW - The Arthurian A2Z knowledge Bank which has encyclopedically-arranged entries on the characters of the Arthurian legends.
Le Morte Darthur: Sir Thomas Malory's Book of King Arthur and of his Noble Knights of the Round Table, Volume 1 and Volume 2.

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