Madam, ye are greatly to blame for Sir Lancelot, for now have ye lost him, for I saw and heard by his countenance that he is mad for ever. Alas, madam, ye do great sin, and to yourself great dishonour, for ye have a lord of your own, and therefore it is your part to love him; for there is no queen in this world hath such another king as ye have.
Dame Elaine to Queen Guinevere, 622
Queen Guinevere is rebuked several times during the epic for her treatment of Lancelot, and this attack touches on the selfishness that leads her to treat him poorly. Here, Elaine, the mother of Lancelot’s son, reprimands the Queen for her selfish and damaging reactions. Guinevere has sent Lancelot away again, because he was tricked into sleeping with Elaine. There is some hypocrisy here – Elaine only has Lancelot through selfish subterfuge – but she is far less important character than Guinevere. Guinevere is the woman to whom many of the other female characters are compared, for both beauty or nobility, and yet she is often defined as much by jealously and insecurity as by those greater virtues. She is unwilling to accept her high place as Queen of England, but instead demands even more, demands which will partially lead to the end of her husband’s reign. This characterization also touches on the ambivalence with which the epic treats women, as people with little agency outside of the danger they present through their sexuality.