Date of Award
Angela Jane Weisl, Ph.D
Donovan Sherman, Ph.D
King Arthur, homoeroticism, love triangles, Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur, authorial choice, Lancelot, Guinevere, Tristram, Isode, Queer, Sedgwick, Pugh, Middle Ages, Chivalry, Courtly love
It seems to be nearly a critically unanimous consensus that when translating Chretien de Troyes’ romance of the glorious King Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory, in his Le Morte Darthur, approaches the narrative of Sir Lancelot with the unwavering attitude that Lancelot must not only sustain the status of Arthur’s most revered knight and truest friend, but also be a true and ideal lover for Guenevere. This deep sense of friendship and comraderie between Lancelot and his king is also reflected in nearly all of the relationships between Arthur’s knights; which is, similar to de Troyes a very important component of the romances to Malory. What is not as apparent, however, is the subtle use of erotic language in Malory’s text. This is likely to be the case because the most erotic conversations almost never take place between a man and wife. Rather, this language appears more often between the adulterers or even between the knights themselves. If this is true, then it brings into question the value of marriage in the romances and how the act of adultery and the acknowledgment of the erotic affects the Code of Chivalry that each of the knights must uphold. Furthermore, critical discussion on the love triangles in Malory’s work often focuses not on the notion of the relationships being triangular, but rather focuses more on the act of adultery itself. Thus, only two characters are truly involved in the romance, with the third (King Arthur and King Mark) often being presented as the spouse that pushes their wives to be unfaithful. By exclusively discussing the relationships as only traditional adultery a discussion of the other relationships (and often more erotic) are overlooked. In order to conflate the constructions of all of the pertinent relationships it is necessary to look at the discourse between all parties as love triangles instead. So instead of continuing in a similar critical vein and focusing my analysis on the act of adultery alone, this paper will investigate through Malory’s use of love languages, as well as the invocation of the erotic and gendered language, the ways in which this adultery is constructed and how it is nearly a direct inverted mirror image of the marital language. Therefore, taking into account the two most notable and arguably most influential adulterous relationships in Malory’s romance (Sir Tristram and Isode and Sir Lancelot and queen Guenevere), as well as the deep friendships between the knights, the language that the English writer uses in both narratives allows for a deeper consideration on the reception of adulterous relationships, love, and the erotic in a realm based strictly on chivalry and honor.
Avery, Maria L., "An Almost Threesome: Erotic Love Triangles and Authorial Choice in Malory’s Le Morte D’ Arthur" (2016). Seton Hall University Dissertations and Theses (ETDs). 2183.