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A Character Analysis of Sir Lancelot

A Character Analysis of Sir Lancelot

Sir Lancelot, from the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, has become by far the most popular and well-remembered knight. Through Malory’s rendition of traditional materials, we have inherited a character that has become the image of the quintessential knight. How is it that “the outsider, the foreigner, the ‘upstart’ who wins Arthur’s heart and Guinevere’s body and soul” (Walters xiv) has taken the place that, prior to Malory, was reserved for Sir Gawain? Malory has made this character larger than life. Of the grandeur of Lancelot, Derek Brewer says, “In the portrayal of Lancelot we generally recognize a vein of extravagance. He is the most obsessive of lovers, as he is the most beloved of ladies, and the greatest of fighters” (8). To achieve this feat, Malory has molded Lancelot to fit the idea of the perfect knight and the perfect lover.

The perfect knight is defined by the Chivalric Code set out in Le Morte D’Arthur as “only to fight in just causes, at all times to be merciful, and at all times to put the service of ladies foremost” (Malory 69). In this code, Lancelot is to be found exemplary. To prove himself worthy as a knight of the Round Table, Lancelot must embark on a quest, and it is while on this quest that “A seemingly never-ending series of victories wins him the title of ‘the best knight in the world’ dedicated to defending the rights of the weak and the oppressed” (Walters xxi). The perfect lover is a bit easier for the modern reader to understand, as it is much the same as today. To prove himself the perfect lover, Lancelot defends the honor of his Lady above all, denies himself the pleasure of all other ladies, and accepts whatever might…

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… of all Christian knights: none could match you! You were the most formidable in battle and the most courteous in manners; in the company of warriors the most courageous, and in the company of ladies the gentlest of men, and in a righteous cause implacable. And of great lovers surely you were the truest. So it is you shall be remembered” (Malory 507).

Works Cited

App, August J.. Lancelot in English Literature, His Role and Character. New York: Haskell House, 1965

Brewer, Derek. The Presentation of the Character of Lancelot. Lancelot and Guinevere, A Casebook. Ed. Lori J. Walters. New York: Garland, 1996. 3-27

Malory, Thomas. Le Morte D’Arthur. Trans. Keith Malory. New York: Mentor, 1962

Walters, Lori J.. Introduction. Lancelot and Guinevere, A Casebook. Ed. Lori J. Walters. New York: Garland, 1996. xiii-lxxx

Dante’s Divine Comedy – Symbolism in the Punishment of Sin in The Inferno

The Symbolism in the Punishment of Sin in Dante’s Inferno

Inferno, the first part of Divina Commedia, or the Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri, is the story of a man’s journey through Hell and the observance of punishments incurred as a result of the committance of sin. In all cases the severity of the punishment, and the punishment itself, has a direct correlation to the sin committed. The punishments are fitting in that they are symbolic of the actual sin; in other words, “They got what they wanted.” (Literature of the Western World, p.1409) According to Dante, Hell has two divisions: Upper Hell, devoted to those who perpetrated sins of incontinence, and Lower Hell, devoted to those who perpetrated sins of malice. The divisions of Hell are likewise split into levels corresponding to sin. Each of the levels and the divisions within levels 7,8, and 9 have an analogous historical or mythological figure used to illustrate and exemplify the sin.

The first of the two divisions of Hell is Upper Hell. Upper Hell is the area habitated by those committing sins of incontinence or lack of self-restraint. This lack of self-restraint could be in the form of anything from sex to mood. Before delving into the sins of incontinence, one must first look into the first inconsistency of the Inferno. This inconsistency is found in the Vestibule of Hell. The Vestibule of Hell contains the trimmers and the neutrals. Although almost all other sins mentioned in the Inferno are of an ethical, universal standpoint, the ones mentioned here are sins only from the Christian point of view. These neutrals are the people who either showed no partisanship or did not take sides. Lines 37-39 and 46-50 read:

They are joined with that choir…

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…ion. Dante cites now-historical and mythological figures to exemplify the sins and to make for the better understanding of sin to even the most inept of readers. This work stands alongside The Bible as one of the greatest religious-literary masterpieces of all time.

Works Cited

Literature of the Western World, Volume 2. 4th edition by Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1997.

Works Consulted

Niven, Larry and Pournelle, Jerry. Inferno. New York: Pocket Books,1976.

MacAllister, Archibald T. Introduction. Inferno. By Dante. New York: Mentor, 1954.

Pinsky, Robert. The Inferno of Dante. New York: Harper Collins, 1994.

Shippey, T.A. “Into Hell and Out Again”. Times Literary Supplement, 8 July 1977, .820.

Spinrad, Norman. Introduction to Inferno, by Niven and Pournelle. Boston: Gregg Press, 1979.

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