In the novel The Once and Future King, by T.H. White, the character, Queen Guenever, is depicted as a confused and lost woman in an arranged marriage.
She had an internal struggle with a shameful secret, an affair with the ugly knight, Lancelot. In the time of King Arthur, women were limited to what they could do, and what decisions they were able to make. She ultimately made some wrong choices in her life, which led to the disapproval from those around her. She was in her marriage by force and had no malicious intensions, but did what she felt she needed. Gueneverâ€™s dialogue with Lancelot shows signs of guilt, but an overall distinct feeling of love.
On page 549, she states that â€œYou (Lancelot) will be killed, and I shall be burned, and our love has come to a bitter end.â€ The love she has for Lancelot is obviously strong, enough for her to accept her own demise.This sad articulation of her love for him is quite powerful.She understands her actions, and also shows signs of paranoia.
She claims, on page 567, that â€œTristram used to sleep with King Markâ€™s wife, and the king murdered him for it.â€Guenever is thoughtful of whatâ€™s to come, for both her AND her partner. It is obvious that she knew she could not always â€œhave her cake and eat it too.
â€ As a woman, suffering through the psychological battle of â€œwhat is rightâ€, Guenever had an awareness of her love and itâ€™s outcome. A few characters in The Once and Future King knew about Gueneverâ€™s secret and wanted to exploit her and take care of personal issues, while others were completely oblivious to the affair. King Arthur, for example, â€œhated knowing the future and managed to dismiss it from his mindâ€, as told on page 335. He knew, from Merlynâ€™s warning, about the affair and was too nice to believe in it. Weakness and ignorance flooded his mind, as it was right in front of his face.
Mordred and Agravaine, on the other hand, hated Lancelot and Arthur, and manipulated Gueneverâ€™s private life to fit their desire of killing them. Their scheme is explained on page 522, when Agravaine cunningly states that â€œ(he would kill them) not by using force against force, but by using our brains.â€ In a mischievous plot, Arthur would be given actual proof of the affair and, in time, he and Lancelot would eventually obliterate each other.
They see Guenever as an unimportant accomplice in their strategy of getting even, when Arthur tries to simply ignore it. I believe that Guenever is definitely guilty of her actions, but under her circumstances, she was given the â€œshort end of the stick.â€ Her marriage with Arthur was arranged, which was a standard given in her culture, and was not based on true love. Guenever knew her circumstance, and even said that Arthur would kill her if he caught her (541). In those days, you could not simply divorce your husband, especially in royalty, or you would be found and killed.
Any sort of affair had to be kept â€œunder wrapsâ€, or the sin of the act could become fatal. She was a beautiful woman who fell for a hideous knight, Lancelot (315). His hideous appearance also favors the certainty of their love. Appearance and attraction are important factors in most affairs, but for Guenever, it was not the case. This makes me believe that she indeed was in love with Lancelot, and was not a typical â€œlady of the eveningâ€, but was solely a victim of her era.
With marriage, normally comes a lot of attention and unconditional love. It seemed that Arthur gave too little of both. Arthur was focused on a new system, and a new way of thinking with â€œmight.