Marie Helga Ingvarsdóttir
B.A.Thesis, Háskóli Íslands – University of Iceland, June (2011)
This essay is an attempt to recollect and analyze the character of Queen Guinevere in Arthurian literature and movies through time. The sources involved here are Welsh and other Celtic tradition, Latin texts, French romances and other works from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Malory’s and Tennyson’s representation of the Queen, and finally Guinevere in the twentieth century in Bradley’s and Miles’s novels as well as in movies. The main sources in the first three chapters are of European origins; however, there is a focus on French and British works. There is a lack of study of German sources, which could bring different insights into the character of Guinevere.
The purpose of this essay is to analyze the evolution of Queen Guinevere and to point out that through the works of Malory and Tennyson, she has been misrepresented and there is more to her than her adulterous relation with Lancelot. This essay is exclusively focused on Queen Guinevere and her analysis involves other characters like Arthur, Lancelot, Merlin, Enide, and more. First the Queen is only represented as Arthur’s unfaithful wife, and her abduction is narrated. We have here the basis of her character. Chrétien de Troyes develops this basic character into a woman of important values about love and chivalry. Unfortunately, Guinevere’s portrayal by Malory and Tennyson as a weak and unfaithful woman will remain as the general perception of Guinevere until the twentieth century. In the twentieth century, Guinevere’s character will be rediscovered through the studies of early medieval works (e.g. Monmouth, Wace, or Troyes) and Guinevere’s role and influence in Arthurian legends will be revealed.