In Guinevere, the Queen's shame at her infidelity prompts her to leave the court and go to a nunnery in Almesbury. Though she attempts to conceal her identity and keep her whereabouts a secret, Arthur ultimately finds her. Rather than condemning Guinevere, he shows his wife mercy and forgives her sins. The Queen then has a revelation:

And blessed be the King, who hath forgiven
My wickedness to him, and left me hope
That in mine own heart I can live down sin
And be his mate hereafter in the heavens
Before high God! Ah great and gentle lord,
Who wast, as is the conscience of a saint
Among his warring senses, to thy knights —
To whom my false voluptuous pride, that took
Full easily all impressions from below,
Would not look up, or half-despised the height
To which I would not or I could not climb —
I thought I could not breathe in that fine air
That pure severity of perfect light —
I yearned for warmth and color which I found
In Lancelot — now I see thee what thou art,
Thou art the highest and most human too. [lines 629-644]

Questions

1. Why does Guinevere have a sudden turnaround in this idyll? How does she now view Arthur? Has she found faith?

2. As Guinevere comes to find her faith (made all the more appropriate since she is in a house of God), she grovels at Arthur's feet. Has Arthur, in his purity, become more than a man?

3. In what other narrative have we seen a character find faith and be forgiven?


Victorian Website Overview Alfred Lord Tennyson Idylls of the King Leading Questions

Last modified 18 April 2003