Lancelot: Or, the Knight of the Cart

Worth the Third Part of an Angevin: Lancelot as Paragon of Courtly Virtue in "The Knight of the Cart"

One of the key indicators of the effectiveness of a romantic tale is whether those who hear it fall entirely under the spell of the hero as he takes on an idealized, larger-than-life status, becoming everything which the listener could ever want in a lover. Lancelot, paramour of Queen Guinevere and one of the great romantic figures of medieval literature, is therefore portrayed as exemplifying the courtly values so vital to the age in which Chretien de Troyes was writing. It seems likely that Chretien depicted his character thus very deliberately, not only to please the lady for whom he was writing the story, Marie de Champagne, but to enrapture a larger, predominantly female audience as well. One of the more fascinating episodes in the tale, one which clearly demonstrates Lancelot's idealization as a male romantic figure, is that in which a nameless girl approaches Lancelot, demanding that he sleep with her in return for lodging, and later subjects him to a test in order to determine his strength of character. This short episode has both a practical aspect and a larger thematic one: practical, in that the episode demonstrates Lancelot's desirability, both physically and as a paragon of chivalry, and thematic, in that...

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