Chivalry in Malory: A Look at the Inconsistencies of Lancelot, Gareth, and Tristram in Le Morte d’Arthur
Honours Thesis, Liberty University Spring (2009)
Chivalry and its counterpart, courtly love, are indispensible to Sir Thomas Malory’s fifteenth century work on Arthurian legend, Le Morte d’Arthur. The three great examples of chivalry in this work are the knights Lancelot, Gareth, and Tristram, each of whom has a book dedicated to his story. Within these knights’ portrayals of chivalry, however, develop certain inconsistencies which seem out of place against their chivalrous backdrop. The purpose of this thesis is to propose that the reason for these contradictions of character and of chivalry is the close yet destructive relationship between chivalry and courtly love. What leads Lancelot, Gareth, and Tristram to their individual failures in chivalry is their inability to reconcile their loyalty to their king and their knightly oath with their loyalty to their respective ladies.