[Aubrey Beardsley: Illustrations to Malory's Morte d'Arthur]
A Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake
Page numbers in parentheses are taken from The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, ed. Eugène Vinaver, 3 vols, 1947, 3rd ed. rev. P. J. C. Field, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990) 1: 249-287:
Sir Launcelot and Sir Lyonell ‘go seke adventures’ (253) . Launcelot goes to sleep under an apple-tree while Lyonell stays awake. Lyonell sees a ‘stronge knyght’ (254) overcome three knights in a row. Lyonell assays the knight, is beaten, and cast in prison.
Sir Ector de Marys ‘made hym redy to seke sir Launcelot’ (254). He meets a foster, who warns him of a tree hung with shields. He fights Sir Tarquyn, but is beaten by him and imprisoned.
Sir Launcelot is found by ‘foure queenys of a grete astate’ (256), and enchanted by Morgan le Fay and taken to the Castell Charyot. He refuses to choose any of them as his love.
A damsel offers to release Launcelot if he will help her father King Bagdemagus in a tournament against the King of North Galys ‘on Tewysday next commynge’ (258). He agrees and is given back his armour and horse.
Launcelot falls asleep in a ‘pavylyon of rede sendele’ (259), and fights Sir Belleus who has come expecting his lemman. She comes, and demands that Launcelot have Belleus made a knight of the Round Table.
Launcelot arrives at the abbey of white monks and again meets the ‘doughter of kyng Bagdemagus’ (261), who sends for her father. Sir Madore de la Porte, Sir Mordred and Sir Gahalantyne are the three Round Table knights who are fighting for the King of North Galys.
Launcelot enters the tournament, where he ‘smote downe the kynge of North Galys’ (262), then Sir Madore, then Sir Mordred, then Sir Gahalantyne, then sixteen knights with one spear, then twelve with another. His side wins.
Launcelot rides back to the forest and meets a damsel on a white palfrey. She tells him about Sir Tarquyn. He meets Sir Gaheris, bound by Sir Tarquyn, and challenges the latter.
Launcelot and Tarquyn fight, the latter revealing that he holds an enmity against Launcelot for killing his brother ‘sir Carados at the Dolerous Towre’ (266). They continue fighting and Launcelot kills him.
Launcelot takes Gaheris’ horse, telling him to free the prisoners and to wait for him at court, ‘for by the feste of Pentecoste I caste me to be there’ (268). Gaheris frees them, and the foster brings them food.
The damsel leads Launcelot to another evil knight, whom he justly slays, ‘for lyke as Terquyn wacched to dystresse good knyghtes, so dud this knyght attende to destroy and dystresse ladyes, damesels and jantyllwomen; and his name was sir Perys de Foreste Savage’ (270). Launcelot and the damsel part here.
Two days later Launcelot is forced to kill a carle on a bridge, in order to reach a village.
Launcelot kills two giants, and frees ‘three score of ladyes and damesels’ (272) from Tintagel.
He then goes on and lodges with an old gentlewoman. Through the window he sees three knights pursuing one. Launcelot defeats the knights and makes them yield to Sir Kay, then go on to wait for him at court. In the morning, he takes Kay’s armour and leaves him his own.
Launcelot / Kay (he will retain this disguise for the rest of the adventure) passes three knights. Sir Gawtere pursues him and is defeated. Sir Gylmere is also beaten, then Sir Raynolde. The three are sent to court to yield themselves to Queen Gwenyvere.
Launcelot fights Sir Sagramoure le Desyrus, Sir Ector de Marys, then Sir Uwayne, then Sir Gawayne. ‘Than had they much sorow to gete their horsis agayne’ (278).
Launcelot pursues a ‘blak brachette’ (278) by following a trail of blood. It leads him to a lady and a dead knight, her husband Sir Gylberd the Bastarde. Subsequently he meets a damsel, whose brother Sir Melyot de Logyrs was wounded in battle with Gylberte.
Launcelot agrees to get a bloody cloth and sword from the Chapel Perelus in order to heal Melyot’s wounds.
Launcelot enters the Chapel and confronts ‘thirty grete knyghtes’ (280), then Hallewes the Sorseres. He then returns to Melyot and heals him. Melyot, too, is sent to wait at court.
Launcelot helps a lady recover her hawk by climbing a tree. Sir Phelot ambushes him there, but is stunned with a branch and then defeated and killed.
Launcelot sees ‘a knyght chasyng a lady with a naked swerde to have slayne hir’ (284). He stops him, but Sir Pedyvere slays her anyway by stealth. He is sent to Queen Gwenyvere at court with the lady’s severed head. From there he is sent to the Pope in Rome.
Launcelot returns two days before the feast of Pentecost. Gawayne, Uwayne, Sagramour, and Ector see that it was he who defeated them. Tarquyn’s three-score prisoners are told who rescued them by Gaheris. Kay tells his story. Gawtere, Gylmere, and Raynolde discover ‘Kay’s’ identity. Then Melyot appears, and ‘all his dedys was knowyn’ (287) - the imprisonment by the four queens, King Bagdemagus’ daughter and the tournament, and his defeat there of Mador, Mordred, and Gahalantyne. Belleus and his lady arrive, and the former is made a knight of the Round Table. ‘And so at that tyme sir Launcelot had the grettyste name of ony knyght of the worlde, and moste he was honoured of hyghe and lowe’ (287).
A: ‘Sir Tarquyn’
Morgan + 3 Queens
C: ‘Sir Belleus’
A: ‘Sir Tarquyn’
A: ‘Sir Gaheris’
Gaheris + 60 prisoners
B1: ‘Sir Perys’
Giants+ 60 prisoners
C1: ‘Sir Kay’
Launcelot / Kay
B3: ‘Sir Phelot’
B4: ‘Sir Pedyvere’
Gaheris + 60 prisoners
3 Knights(3) + 4
Damsels = King’s daughter1 (c.4 & 6)
Guide2 (c.7 & 10)
Melyot’s sister3 (c.14 & 15)
Couples = Belleus + Lady1 (c.5)
Gylberd + Lady2 (c.14)
Phelot + Lady3 (c.16)
Pedyvere + Lady4 (c.17)
3 + 1 = Tarquyn + 3 Knights1 (c.1)
Morgan + 3 Queens (c.3)
Lancelot + 3 Knights2 (c.6)
Kay + 3 Knights3 (c.11)
‘Kay’ + 3 Knights4 (c.12)
Ector + 3 Knights5 (c.13)
3 score prisoners of Tarquyn (c.18)
3 score prisoners in Tintagel (c.11)