Guinevere

Sir Launcelot and the Queen Talked Sadly Together

Guinevere

CharactersName Variants: Guenevere, Ginevra, Gwenhwyfar, Gaynor, Guanhumara, Guennivar, Ganore, Guenever, WaynorBackground Essay Author: Alan Lupack
Guinevere is said to be the daughter of Leodegrance of Cameliard in late medieval romance. In many sources, she marries Arthur and then has a love affair with Lancelot which causes the downfall of Camelot.

The Welsh Triads speak of "Arthur's Three Great Queens," all named Gwenhwyfar (Triad 56) and name Gwenhwyfar as "more faithless" than the three faithless wives of the Island of Britain (Triad 80). One of the earliest Arthurian stories is about the abduction of Guinevere by Meleagant (or Melyagaunce or Melwas). The story is told in The Life of St. Gildas (c. 1130) by Caradoc of Llancarfan and in the Welsh "Dialogue of Melwas and Gwenhwyfar." It is the subject of the earliest known Arthurian sculpture on the archivolt of the Porta della Pescheria on the Modena Cathedral. The story of the abduction is the central action in Chrétien de Troyes' Lancelot and appears in Malory.

Geoffrey of Monmouth introduces the notion of Guinevere’s infidelity (with Modred) while Arthur is fighting on the continent. In the twelfth-century Rise of Gawain, Arthur’s wife is called Gwendoloena and is said to have been initiated into sorcery and to be able to divine the future.
 
In Chrétien’s Lancelot, Guinevere becomes Lancelot’s lover after he rescues her from Meleagant. She is a demanding courtly lover; for example, she refuses to see Lancelot after he has suffered greatly in saving her because he hesitated two steps before leaping into a cart on his quest to rescue her, thus suggesting that his love was not absolute. But she loves deeply and contemplates suicide when she hears rumors of Lancelot’s...

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