Fellowship and Treason
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The final books of the Morte Darthur chart the failure of the Arthurian polity. The disaster tends to be seen as a monarch’s tragic fall, the outcome of Guinevere and Lancelot’s ill-starred affair, or as a result of a descent into feud and factionalism, with Arthur, Lancelot, or Gawain individually or jointly culpable.1 There is, as Mark Lambert says, a “tragic multicentricity” to the last books, no single cause but a conglomera- tion of avoidable disasters.2 In these tales, the contested language of trea- son expresses the various ways in which the polity is thwarted: Lancelot and Guinevere’s treasonous adultery, the slaying of Gaheris and Gareth “traytourly and piteuously” by Lancelot, and the usurpation of “an false traytoure whych ys … sir Mordred” (Works, 1199.8–9; 1231.28–29). As treason multiplies and expands to engulf the Round Table, the language of fellowship reemerges in the service of new ends of partisanship. In this final chapter, I focus on the contested language of treason and fellow- ship as indications of pervasive and externalized constructions of political action that constrain the choices of individuals. The tragedy of the Morte lies not simply in individual flaws or in the forces of fate but in the move- ment of each character within the political structure, expressed in these common terms, that confines them.
KeywordsRound Table Judicial Process Fellowship Unity Final Book Single Combat
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