Meter: A study of Idylls of the King, Part 12, Guinevere

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Welcome to part 12 of my study of Idylls of the King. Today, we will be looking at chapter 11, Guinevere.

The story starts off with the Queen fleeing Camelot and seeking refuge at a holy house full of nuns. The reason Guinevere fled Camelot is that Mordred set a trap for her and Lancelot. Lancelot and the Queen were planning to run away with each other to France, but Vivian had revealed this information to Modred. Modred confronts the two, and Lancelot kills a number of Mordred's knights (This explains why Guinevere had disappeared at the end of the previous chapter.)

Lancelot makes it back to France and Arthur leads a massive host in pursuit (Sound like the Iliad to anyone?) With Arthur gone, Modred takes the opportunity to usurp the throne and take the country for himself. This causes Arthur to give up his war in France and return home.

Learning all of this, Guinevere comes to hate herself as she knows she was the catalyst for these events. King Arthur somehow learns that Guinevere has taken sanctionary and arrives at the holy house. He confronts Guinevere, confesses his love for her and his acceptance to let her go, and foreshadows the fact that he will most likely die in the final battle with Mordred.

After Arthur leaves, Guinevere has this realization -which I will scan.

Gone thro' my sin to slay and to be slain!
And he forgave me, and I could not speak.
Farewell? I should have answer'd his farewell.
His mercy choked me. Gone, my lord the King,
My own true lord! how dare I call him mine?
The shadow of another cleaves to me,
And make me one pollution. He, the King,
Call'd me polluted. Shall I kill myself?
What help in that? I cannot kill my sin,
If soul be soul, nor can I kill my shame;
No, nor by living can I live it down.
The days will grow to weeks, the weeks to months,
The months will add themselves and make the years,
The years will roll into the centuries,
And mine will ever be a name of scorn.

(Guinevere, line 608-622)

Gone thro' /my sin /to slay /and to /be slain! (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
And he /forgave /me, and/ I could/ not speak. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Double Iamb)
Farewell? I should/ have/ ans/wer'd his farewell. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
His mer/cy choked/ me. Gone, my lord /the King, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
My own/ true lord! how dare /I call /him mine? (Double Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
The shad/ow of/ a-noth/er cleaves to me, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
And make/ me one /pol-lut/ion. He,/ the King, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
Call'd me/ pol-lut/ed. Shall/ I kill /myself? (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
What help/ in that? /I can/not kill /my sin, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
If soul /be soul,/ nor can/ I kill /my shame; (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
No, nor /by liv/ing can/ I live /it down. (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
The days /will grow /to weeks, /the weeks/ to months, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
The months /will add /themselves /and make/ the years, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
The years /will roll/ into/ the cen/tu-ries, (Iamb/Iamb/Trochee/Iamb/Iamb)
And mine/ will ev/er be/ a name /of scorn. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)

The Monologue goes on for another page, but this is a great example of a character reflecting on thier situtation and considering what their next step to be. In story structure this is called the Dilemma stage. Guinevere knows her names will be blackened to the end of time and considers killing herself.


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Guinevere decides to spend the rest of her life as a nun, becomes head-mother, and dies three years later.

This chapter acts as the break into Act III, as the next chapter is the Climatic battle between Arthur and Mordred. While this is not the most exciting chapter (a lot of things happen off-stage) it ties well with the theme of the story (which I will go into in part 14 of my study, the conclusion. )

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If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave a comment or a like!

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