Pelleas and Ettarde

Pelleas

Pelleas and Ettarde

CharactersName Variants: Pellias, Etard, EttardBackground Essay Author: Alan Lupack
In Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, Pelleas is a knight who loves Ettarde. After he wins a tournament and declares her the fairest woman, she scorns him. Just so he can see her, Pelleas lets himself be taken prisoner by her knights even though he has defeated them. Gawain offers to help Pelleas by pretending to have killed him and thereby, presumably, forcing Ettarde to realize that she cares for him. Instead, she is glad to hear he is dead; and Gawain betrays his comrade by sleeping with Ettarde. When Pelleas discovers them together, he places his sword across their throats. Nyneve helps Pelleas by curing his love for Ettarde and at the same time enchanting Ettarde so that she loves him. Eventually, Ettarde dies because of that love, and Pelleas and Nyneve become lovers. Malory writes that Pelleas was one of the four knights who achieved the Grail, a strange statement since in his account and in his source only three of Arthur’s knights succeed in the quest and Pelleas is not one of them. Perhaps this statement indicates an early intention to give Pelleas a wider role in the Morte.
            In his "Pelleas and Ettarre" idyll, Tennyson recounts Pelleas’s love and Gawain’s betrayal, which becomes one of several signs of the moral decline of Camelot. Without the assistance and love of Vivien, who is herself a wicked and deceitful figure in Tennyson’s poems, Pelleas is driven mad by the betrayal.
            Pelleas is the narrator of Godfrey Turton’s The Emperor Arthur,...

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