, Research Paper
February 21, 2000
The Green Night and Le Morte d’Arthur
Many British literature writers of the Middle Ages wrote about reality of the Middle Ages including the social, political, and economical styles of writing. During the Middle Ages, chivalry was a big aspect of every day life. Chivalry, a word not rarely used in modern times anymore in the same fashion it was before, is defined as, “the code of life that defined the qualities of knighthood, such as honor, courage, loyalty, and willingness to defined the weak and protect women.” (English & Western Literature Text) The Middle Ages were known to be the times of knights, kings, and queens and fighting for their country for pride for the king. Loyalty was a major part of chivalry and thus was a part of many stories about the King Arthur era. One story in particular, “Le Morte d’Arthur” compiled by Sir Thomas Malory, shows many characters throughout who appear to be loyal to the king and queen of their country.
Loyalty is shown through many instances from the beginning of the story to the end. All three knights, namely, Sir Torre, Sir Pellinore, and Sir Gawain, all reveal their loyalty through different actions and emotions. But in the introduction, before Arthur becomes King, King Uther was sick. In this instance, Merlin, the advisor, summons the Kings noblemen to take care of him. They did as they were told and did not back out because they loved their king and felt loyal to him unto his dying day. Unfortunately, King Uther dies and his son, Arthur comes into the picture. When the news of the great stone in the rock came to everyone the noblemen wanted to win the prize and to become king of the land. One of them was Sir Kay, the brother of Arthur, the song of Sir Ector, whom asked Arthur to retrieve his sword since it had been misplaced or so he told him. “In order not to disappoint his brother, he rode on to St. Paul’s, determined to get for him the sword which was lodged in the stone.” (p.118) This states that Arthur did not want to back out since he was doing the deed for his brother out of pure loyalty for him. He tugged the sword without trouble and successfully was made king with some trouble from others who wanted to be king. The others who tried but failed, did not believe that someone so young could succeed the throne instead of them. They did not have any loyalty towards Arthur at first, which put off the crowning for a while but not until Arthur successfully again retrieved the sword out of the stone did the others bow down to him. They were finally going to become loyal to their real king; King Arthur. “The nobles, knowing in their hearts that the commoners were right, all knelt before Arthur and begged for forgiveness for having delayed his succession for so long.” (p.120) This quote tells the reader that the nobles begged for their forgiveness by kneeling down before him in search of becoming loyal again.
In the second part of this story, it describes many adventures of Gawain, Torre, and Pellinore in which they unveil their loyalty or un-loyalty towards the king. In the very beginning of this section, Merlin, and King Arthur are talking about marriage for Arthur. Merlin states that the woman Arthur sets eyes on already has someone to love. But he states that he would do anything to please Arthur even to go to King Lodegreaunce, the father of the woman, and tell him that Arthur is in love with her. “However, profice me with a royal escort and I will go to King Lodegreaunce and tell him that you are in love with Gwynevere and would like to marry her.” This shows Merlin’s loyalty towards Arthur because he would go against anything already set to make Arthur happy. He is being a loyal friend and advisor. Thus Merlin successfully does the deed and Arthur and Gwynevere are happily married. Another instance during the second part, is when King Arthur is looking for knights to fill the Round Table and many come to test their knighthood because they wish to be on the “king’s side.” Two of these future knights are Sir Gawain and Sir Torre whom both wish to become a part of the Round Table to become truly loyal to the king in writing. They are being loyal to their king by wanting to become real knights at the Round Table.
The story evolves into a thicker plot when all of a hart, a brachet and a palfrey are stolen from the king’s court and the three knights are asked to go fetch these things plus the knight who stole these and to capture the lady whom he captured. They each go off on their own journey to find what they were asked. This is an example of loyalty again since they did not back out of this brave adventure. They all wanted to be chivalrous for their king and loyal. The story continues with the journey of Sir Gawain and along with him his brother, Sir Gaheris. During their expedition, Gawain killed a woman while fighting another knight on his way down the path. This was not the norm and was brutally rebuked by anyone who didn’t have women on their priority list. Knights were to save women for all costs; they were precious things and more important then men. So, because Gawain killed a woman, he had to tell King Arthur and Queen Gwynevere the truth about his adventures. He in his case was being loyal and truthful to the king and queen. Even though he did not obey the chivalrous ideas he told the truth and in that was being devoted to the king and queen.
Then starts the quest of Sir Torre. During his quest, he shows great loyalty when he sees a woman with the brachet that was stolen from the King’s court. He states, “My lady, I am obliged to, since my liege King Arthur has commanded me to bring it to his court.” (p. 127) Here, he is following his orders directly from the King and will not budge at all. He states the reason why and that is that. He is being loyal to the king in this way. He is not worried at all about the foreshadowing of what the woman speaks and thinks only of his deed for the king. Next Sir Pellinore is on his way to his quest. He also displays his loyalty towards the king. In the beginning of his trip, he sees a dying husband in the arms of his wife. ‘Good night, for the love of Jesus, help me, I beseech you!” But King Pellinore was so eager in the persuit of his quest that he did not more than salute the young noblewoman.” (p.130) The woman asks of his help, but because he has such a huge devotion for his king that he walks on past her barely noticing. As he trots on, he discloses another instance of his loyalty when he spots the woman who he has told to retrieve and bring back to the King’s court. He spies her in between two men who are in a quarrel fighting for her. He says to the lady, while the two knights are fighting with eachother, “My lady, I am commanded by my liege, King Arthur, to bring you to his court.” Thus one of the squires replies,” Sir,…you will have to challenge the two knights who are already fighting for her, if she is to accompany you.” Thus, he duels both knights because he is very loyal and even risking his own life, to stay true to his king. In the end, he wins her and brings her back to the king and is happily rewarded.
In the last section, The Death of King Arthur, there are four major instances of loyalty towards the King. In the commencement, during Arthur’s dream, he screamed and all of his squires and noblemen come running to his side. They seemed to be there in any moment when he needed them. This is a small example of the squires loyalty towards their king because in the kings time of need they would run to save him from any harm. Later in the story, there started a war between Sir Modred and King Arthur because they each “suspected eachother of treachery.” (p.134) They each told their armies if any saw a sign of a sword to attack the other side. Indeed there was a sword in sight but taken for the wrong idea and a war initiated between both parties. In this case, both armies fought and fought never giving up until they were all dead in which illustrates a certain type of loyalty toward each of their leaders. Their armies would not give up under any circumstances because they wanted to win for the king and him alone no matter if they lost their life for it. They wanted to protect their leader because of their loyalty and attachment toward him. When the war is just about over, King Arthur was saddened by the many who risked their lives for him. “Alas,…that the day should come when I see all my noble knights destroyed! I would prefer that I myself had fallen.” This states that King Arthur, is loyal to his country and wished that he could die instead of all of his noblemen.
Conclusively, at the very end of the story, after King Arthur is buried, one of his true loyal followers, stayed by him even in death. His follower, Sir Bedivere, walked up to a tomb and found out that it was the King Arthurs tomb and immediately “sat down and never left that place.” For he was being very loyal to his king who had died. Sir Bedivere lived next to the king for years after until his death. The end of his life was full blown loyalty to the king ever, especially since the King had died. Lastly, he states his true loyalty to the Archbishop of Canterbury who had been there since he had been banned by Sir Modred. “Father, I wish only to be near to my true liege.”