The Conspiracy Against Lancelot and Guinevere

Le Morte d’Arthur BOOK XX CHAPTERS I-IV

“The Conspiracy Against Lancelot and Guinevere”

CHAPTER I

How Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred were busy upon Sir

Gawaine for to disclose the love between Sir Launcelot

and Queen Guenever

IN May when every lusty heart flourisheth and bourgeoneth,

for as the season is lusty to behold and comfortable,

so man and woman rejoice and gladden of summer

coming with his fresh flowers: for winter with his rough

winds and blasts causeth a lusty man and woman to cower

and sit fast by the fire. So in this season, as in the month

of May, it befell a great anger and unhap that stinted not

till the flower of chivalry of all the world was destroyed

and slain; and all was long upon two unhappy knights

the which were named Agravaine and Sir Mordred, that

were brethren unto Sir Gawaine. For this Sir Agravaine

and Sir Mordred had ever a privy hate unto the queen

Dame Guenever and to Sir Launcelot, and daily and

nightly they ever watched upon Sir Launcelot.

So it mishapped, Sir Gawaine and all his brethren were in

King Arthur’s chamber; and then Sir Agravaine said thus

openly, and not in no counsel, that many knights might

hear it: I marvel that we all be not ashamed both to see

and to know how Sir Launcelot lieth daily and nightly by

the queen, and all we know it so; and it is shamefully

suffered of us all, that we all should suffer so noble a king

as King Arthur is so to be shamed.

Then spake Sir Gawaine, and said: Brother Sir Agravaine,

I pray you and charge you move no such matters

no more afore me, for wit you well, said Sir Gawaine, I

will not be of your counsel. So God me help, said Sir

Gaheris and Sir Gareth, we will not be knowing, brother

Agravaine, of your deeds. Then will I, said Sir Mordred.

I lieve well that, said Sir Gawaine, for ever unto

all unhappiness, brother Sir Mordred, thereto will ye grant;

and I would that ye left all this, and made you not so

busy, for I know, said Sir Gawaine, what will fall of it.

Fall of it what fall may, said Sir Agravaine, I will disclose

it to the king. Not by my counsel, said Sir Gawaine, for

an there rise war and wrack betwixt Sir Launcelot and us,

wit you well brother, there will many kings and great

lords hold with Sir Launcelot. Also, brother Sir Agravaine,

said Sir Gawaine, ye must remember how ofttimes

Sir Launcelot hath rescued the king and the queen; and

the best of us all had been full cold at the heart-root had not

Sir Launcelot been better than we, and that hath he proved

himself full oft. And as for my part, said Sir Gawaine, I

will never be against Sir Launcelot for one day’s deed,

when he rescued me from King Carados of the Dolorous

Tower, and slew him, and saved my life. Also, brother

Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred, in like wise Sir Launcelot

rescued you both, and threescore and two, from Sir

Turquin. Methinketh brother, such kind deeds and kindness

should be remembered. Do as ye list, said Sir Agravaine,

for I will lain it no longer. With these words came to

them King Arthur. Now brother, stint your noise, said

Sir Gawaine. We will not, said Sir Agravaine and Sir

Mordred. Will ye so? said Sir Gawaine; then God

speed you, for I will not hear your tales ne be of your

counsel. No more will I, said Sir Gareth and Sir Gaheris,

for we will never say evil by that man; for because, said

Sir Gareth, Sir Launcelot made me knight, by no manner

owe I to say ill of him: and therewithal they three

departed, making great dole. Alas, said Sir Gawaine and

Sir Gareth, now is this realm wholly mischieved, and the

noble fellowship of the Round Table shall be disparpled:

so they departed.

CHAPTER II

How Sir Agravaine disclosed their love to King Arthur,

and how King Arthur gave them licence to take him

AND then Sir Arthur asked them what noise they made.

My lord, said Agravaine, I shall tell you that I may keep

no longer. Here is I, and my brother Sir Mordred,

brake unto my brothers Sir Gawaine, Sir Gaheris, and to

Sir Gareth, how this we know all, that Sir Launcelot

holdeth your queen, and hath done long; and we be your

sister’s sons, and we may suffer it no longer, and all we

wot that ye should be above Sir Launcelot; and ye are

the king that made him knight, and therefore we will

prove it, that he is a traitor to your person.

If it be so, said Sir Arthur, wit you well he is none

other, but I would be loath to begin such a thing but I

might have proofs upon it; for Sir Launcelot is an hardy

knight, and all ye know he is the best knight among us

all; and but if he be taken with the deed, he will fight

with him that bringeth up the noise, and I know no

knight that is able to match him. Therefore an it be

sooth as ye say, I would he were taken with the deed.

For as the French book saith, the king was full loath

thereto, that any noise should be upon Sir Launcelot and

his queen; for the king had a deeming, but he would not

hear of it, for Sir Launcelot had done so much for him

and the queen so many times, that wit ye well the king

loved him passingly well. My lord, said Sir Agravaine,

ye shall ride to-morn a-hunting, and doubt ye not Sir

Launcelot will not go with you. Then when it draweth

toward night, ye may send the queen word that ye will lie

out all that night, and so may ye send for your cooks,

and then upon pain of death we shall take him that night

with the queen, and outher we shall bring him to you

dead or quick. I will well, said the king; then I counsel

you, said the king, take with you sure fellowship. Sir,

said Agravaine, my brother, Sir Mordred, and I, will take

with us twelve knights of the Round Table. Beware,

said King Arthur, for I warn you ye shall find him wight.

Let us deal, said Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred.

So on the morn King Arthur rode a-hunting, and sent

word to the queen that he would be out all that night.

Then Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred gat to them twelve

knights, and hid themself in a chamber in the Castle of

Carlisle, and these were their names: Sir Colgrevance, Sir

Mador de la Porte, Sir Gingaline, Sir Meliot de Logris,

Sir Petipase of Winchelsea, Sir Galleron of Galway, Sir

Melion of the Mountain, Sir Astamore, Sir Gromore

Somir Joure, Sir Curselaine, Sir Florence, Sir Lovel. So

these twelve knights were with Sir Mordred and Sir

Agravaine, and all they were of Scotland, outher of Sir

Gawaine’s kin, either well-willers to his brethren.

So when the night came, Sir Launcelot told Sir Bors

how he would go that night and speak with the queen.

Sir, said Sir Bors, ye shall not go this night by my counsel.

Why? said Sir Launcelot. Sir, said Sir Bors, I dread me

ever of Sir Agravaine, that waiteth you daily to do you

shame and us all; and never gave my heart against no

going, that ever ye went to the queen, so much as now;

for I mistrust that the king is out this night from the

queen because peradventure he hath lain some watch for

you and the queen, and therefore I dread me sore of

treason. Have ye no dread, said Sir Launcelot, for I

shall go and come again, and make no tarrying. Sir, said

Sir Bors, that me repenteth, for I dread me sore that your

going out this night shall wrath us all. Fair nephew,

said Sir Launcelot, I marvel much why ye say thus, sithen

the queen hath sent for me; and wit ye well I will not be

so much a coward, but she shall understand I will see her

good grace. God speed you well, said Sir Bors, and send

you sound and safe again.

CHAPTER Ill

How Sir Launcelot was espied in the queen’s chamber, and

how Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred came with twelve

knights to slay him

SO Sir Launcelot departed, and took his sword under his arm,

and so in his mantle that noble knight put himself in great

Jeopardy; and so he passed till he came to the queen’s

chamber, and then Sir Launcelot was lightly put into the

chamber. And then, as the French book saith, the queen

and Launcelot were together. And whether they were

abed or at other manner of disports, me list not hereof

make no mention, for love that time was not as is now-a-days.

But thus as they were together, there came Sir

Agravaine and Sir Mordred, with twelve knights with

them of the Round Table, and they said with crying

voice: Traitor-knight, Sir Launcelot du Lake, now art

thou taken. And thus they cried with a loud voice, that

all the court might hear it; and they all fourteen were

armed at all points as they should fight in a battle. Alas

said Queen Guenever, now are we mischieved both

Madam, said Sir Launcelot, is there here any armour

within your chamber, that I might cover my poor body

withal? An if there be any give it me, and I shall soon

stint their malice, by the grace of God. Truly, said the

queen, I have none armour, shield, sword, nor spear;

wherefore I dread me sore our long love is come to a

mischievous end, for I hear by their noise there be many

noble knights, and well I wot they be surely armed, and

against them ye may make no resistance. Wherefore ye

are likely to be slain, and then shall I be brent. For an

ye might escape them, said the queen, I would not doubt

but that ye would rescue me in what danger that ever I

stood in. Alas, said Sir Launcelot, in all my life thus

was I never bestead, that I should be thus shamefully

slain for lack of mine armour.

But ever in one Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred cried:

Traitor-knight, come out of the queen’s chamber, for wit

thou well thou art so beset that thou shalt not escape.

O Jesu mercy, said Sir Launcelot, this shameful cry and

noise I may not suffer, for better were death at once than

thus to endure this pain. Then he took the queen in his

arms, and kissed her, and said: Most noble Christian

queen, I beseech you as ye have been ever my special good

lady, and I at all times your true poor knight unto my

power, and as I never failed you in right nor in wrong

sithen the first day King Arthur made me knight, that ye

will pray for my soul if that I here be slain; for well I

am assured that Sir Bors, my nephew, and all the remnant

of my kin, with Sir Lavaine and Sir Urre, that they will

not fail you to rescue you from the fire; and therefore, mine

own lady, recomfort yourself, whatsomever come of me,

that ye go with Sir Bors, my nephew, and Sir Urre, and

they all will do you all the pleasure that they can or may,

that ye shall live like a queen upon my lands. Nay,

Launcelot, said the queen, wit thou well I will never live

after thy days, but an thou be slain I will take my death

as meekly for Jesu Christ’s sake as ever did any Christian

queen. Well, madam, said I-auncelot, sith it is so that

the day is come that our love must depart, wit you well I

shall sell my life as dear as I may; and a thousandfold,

said Sir Launcelot, I am more heavier for you than for

myself. And now I had liefer than to be lord of all

Christendom, that I had sure armour upon me, that men

might speak of my deeds or ever I were slain. Truly,

said the queen, I would an it might please God that they

would take me and slay me, and suffer you to escape.

That shall never be, said Sir Launcelot, God defend me

from such a shame, but Jesu be Thou my shield and mine

armour!

CHAPTER IV

How Sir Launcelot slew Sir Colgrevance, and armed him in

his harness, and after slew Sir Agravaine, and twelve

of his fellows

AND therewith Sir Launcelot wrapped his mantle about

his arm well and surely; and by then they had gotten a

great form out of the hall, and therewithal they rashed

at the door. Fair lords, said Sir Launcelot, leave your

noise and your rashing, and I shall set open this door, and

then may ye do with me what it liketh you. Come off

then, said they all, and do it, for it availeth thee not to

strive against us all; and therefore let us into this

chamber, and we shall save thy life until thou come to

King Arthur. Then Launcelot unbarred the door, and

with his left hand he held it open a little, so that but one

man might come in at once; and so there came striding a

good knight, a much man and large, and his name was

Colgrevance of Gore, and he with a sword struck at Sir

Launcelot mightily; and he put aside the stroke, and

gave him such a buffet upon the helmet, that he fell

grovelling dead within the chamber door. And then Sir

Launcelot with great might drew that dead knight within

the chamber door; and Sir Launcelot with help of the

queen and her ladies was lightly armed in Sir Colgrevance’s

armour.

And ever stood Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred

crying: Traitor-knight, come out of the queen’s chamber.

Leave your noise, said Sir Launcelot unto Sir Agravaine,

for wit you well, Sir Agravaine, ye shall not prison me

this night; and therefore an ye do by my counsel, go ye

all from this chamber door, and make not such crying and

such manner of slander as ye do; for I promise you by

my knighthood, an ye will depart and make no more

noise, I shall as to-morn appear afore you all before the

king, and then let it be seen which of you all, outher else

ye all, that will accuse me of treason; and there I shall

answer you as a knight should, that hither I came to the

queen for no manner of mal engin, and that will I prove

and make it good upon you with my hands. Fie on thee,

traitor, said Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred, we will have

thee maugre thy head, and slay thee if we list; for we let

thee wit we have the choice of King Arthur to save thee

or to slay thee. Ah sirs, said Sir Launcelot, is there none

other grace with you? then keep yourself.

So then Sir Launcelot set all open the chamber door,

and mightily and knightly he strode in amongst them;

and anon at the first buffet he slew Sir Agravaine. And

twelve of his fellows after, within a little while after, he

laid them cold to the earth, for there was none of the

twelve that might stand Sir Launcelot one buffet. Also

Sir Launcelot wounded Sir Mordred, and he fled with all

his might. And then Sir Launcelot returned again unto

the queen, and said: Madam, now wit you well all our

true love is brought to an end, for now will King Arthur

ever be my foe; and therefore, madam, an it like you

that I may have you with me, I shall save you from all

manner adventures dangerous. That is not best, said the

queen; meseemeth now ye have done so much harm, it

will be best ye hold you still with this. And if ye see

that as to-morn they will put me unto the death, then

may ye rescue me as ye think best. I will well, said Sir

Launcelot, for have ye no doubt, while I am living I shall

rescue you. And then he kissed her, and either gave

other a ring; and so there he left the queen, and went

until his lodging.

Le Morte d’Arthur BOOK XX CHAPTERS VIII-X

“War Breaks Out Between Arthur and Lancelot”

CHAPTER VIII

How Sir Launcelot and his kinsmen rescued the queen from

the fire, and how he slew many knights

THEN said the noble King Arthur to Sir Gawaine: Dear

nephew, I pray you make you ready in your best armour,

with your brethren, Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth, to bring

my queen to the fire, there to have her judgment and

receive the death. Nay, my most noble lord, said Sir

Gawaine, that will I never do; for wit you well I will

never be in that place where so noble a queen as is my

lady, Dame Guenever, shall take a shameful end. For

wit you well, said Sir Gawaine, my heart will never serve

me to see her die; and it shall never be said that ever

I was of your counsel of her death.

Then said the king to Sir Gawaine: Suffer your

brothers Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth to be there. My

lord, said Sir Gawaine, wit you well they will be loath

to be there present, because of many adventures the which

be like there to fall, but they are young and full unable

to say you nay. Then spake Sir Gaheris, and the good

knight Sir Gareth, unto Sir Arthur: Sir, ye may well

command us to be there, but wit you well it shall be sore

against our will; but an we be there by your strait

commandment ye shall plainly hold us there excused: we

will be there in peaceable wise, and bear none harness of

war upon us. In the name of God, said the king, then

make you ready, for she shall soon have her judgment

anon. Alas, said Sir Gawaine, that ever I should endure

to see this woful day. So Sir Gawaine turned him and

wept heartily, and so he went into his chamber; and then

the queen was led forth without Carlisle, and there she

was despoiled into her smock. And so then her ghostly

father was brought to her, to be shriven of her misdeeds.

Then was there weeping, and wailing, and wringing of

hands, of many lords and ladies, but there were but few

in comparison that would bear any armour for to strength

the death of the queen.

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