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All My Best,
Nay, I may not so, for I have promised to do the battle to the uttermost by the faith of my body, while me lasteth the life, and therefore I had liefer to die with honour than to live with shame; and if it were possible for me to die an hundred times, I had liefer to die so oft than yield me to thee; for though I lack weapon, I shall lack no worship, and if thou slay me weaponless that shall be thy shame.
~King Arthur to Sir Accolon, 117
There are many examples throughout Le Morte d’ Arthur of knights refusing to yield out of honor. Such examples provide strong instance of the fame that knights pursue. Here, Arthur will not yield in a fight, even though he is weaponless. He knows there is some trickery at hand, but he also knows that the lives of the knights he is fighting for hang in the balance. His honor is more important to him than his life; at the same time, he would rather die than be shamed by yielding. Thankfully, Nimue steps in to help Arthur regain his sword, suggesting that honor breeds reward.
For madam, I love not to be constrained to love; for love must arise of the heart, and not by no constraint.
Lancelot to Guinevere, 826
Le Morte D’Arthur
After the body of Elaine (the Fair Maiden of Astolat) arrives, Lancelot is confronted by Guinevere about his guilt in her death. She accuses him of not loving Elaine, and hence causing her death. This reply both confirms the all-consuming power of love and Lancelot’s devotion to Guinevere. He is subtly reminding her that love cannot be controlled, and that he remains devoted to her not by choice but by love. However, he also reveals unwittingly that it has power beyond the lover’s desires. He never meant to destroy King Arthur’s kingdom, but his all-powerful love for Guinevere required as much, and so this answer serves as foreshadowing. King Arthur approves of Lancelot’s statement, though he misses its subtlety.
Alas, that ever I bare crown upon my head! For now have I lost the fairest fellowship of noble knights that ever held Christian king together. Alas, my good knights be slain away from me: now within these two days I have lost forty knights, and also the noble fellowship of Sir Launcelot and his blood, for now I may never hold them together no more with my worship. Alas that ever this war began.
-King Arthur, 881-882
This lamentation marks Arthur’s most poignant realization that the utopian days of Camelot will come to end. Though he foresaw the end of the Round Table at the time his knights left on the quest for the Sangreal, he here realizes that they will perish not from without, but from within, at the hands of their greatest brother Sir Launcelot. Arthur reveals that his own chivalric code has faded, as he soon condemns his queen to death, and a civil war soon follows.
Now I have warned thee of thy vain glory and of thy pride, that thou hast many times erred against thy Maker. Beware of everlasting pain, for of all earthly knights I have most pity of thee, for I know well thou hast not thy peer on any earthy sinful man.
A recluse to Launcelot, 713
These words, spoken during the quest for the Sangreal, touch on Launcelot’s spiritual failings, and help to define the epic’s shift into a more Christian work. On the quest for the Sangreal, Launcelot has a hard time accepting the idea that he might not achieve his goal. After all, he has always been the world’s greatest knight. However, this pride is precisely what keeps him from fulfilling the goal. Finding the Sangreal requires spiritual fortitude, not just physical strength. The recluse’s words reveal to Launcelot that his best path is to repent of his sins. Redemption, another major theme of Le Morte d’Arthur, proves quite important to Launcelot’s story arc. Here, we see the beginning of Launcelot’s spiritual trial.
This is the oath of a Knight of King Arthur’s Round Table and should be for all of us to take to heart. I will develop my life for the greater good. I will place character above riches, and concern for others above personal wealth, I will never boast, but cherish humility instead, I will speak the truth at all times, and forever keep my word, I will defend those who cannot defend themselves, I will honor and respect women, and refute sexism in all its guises, I will uphold justice by being fair to all, I will be faithful in love and loyal in friendship, I will abhor scandals and gossip-neither partake nor delight in them, I will be generous to the poor and to those who need help, I will forgive when asked, that my own mistakes will be forgiven, I will live my life with courtesy and honor from this day forward.
King Arthur, Le Morte d’Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table