Importance of Honor in Sir Thomas Malory’s King Arthur and his Knights

1790 Words 8 Pages
Importance of Honor in Sir Thomas Malory’s King Arthur and his Knights

For centuries, the Arthurian legend has captivated an untold number of readers. What is it about Camelot that draws us into its complex code of chivalry and amusingly brute anecdotes? Human nature, as one can surmise from antiquated literature, has still not changed in the least—we still experience the boons and pitfalls of love, joy, envy, lust and sorrow. This certainly explains why the tantrums of Malory’s jealous Queen Guinevere strike chords of familiarity and even evoke an empathetic chuckle. Yet it fails to explain why a certain well-respected knight would receive such acclaim after delivering a ruthless and fatal blow to an innocent man’s head simply for
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In the aforementioned tale, “The Knight with the Two Swords,” many forces are at work, including magic and brotherly love, but at its close, honor emerges as the primary reason behind the undoing of the double sword-wielding Balin. The final message is intriguing: pride’s paradoxical traits lead one to glory and avoidable death.

Revenge, a perfectly legitimate method of righting wrongs in medieval England, is often a natural avenue to gain recognition and acclaim. Previously a humble knight in the lower ranks, Balin’s name becomes better known when his virtue merits an enchanted sword. With this sword, Balin avenges his mother’s murder by decapitating the Lady of the Lake (the very sorceress who bestowed Excalibur unto Arthur) in front of Arthur’s eyes. Although Balin did this in the name of justice, King Arthur took deep offence and Balin was reduced to travel around the kingdom incognito. Throughout his wandering days, Balin’s single goal is to reestablish the respect the king once had for him. The process of doing so ironically leads to a deadly confrontation with a masked knight (Balin’s brother in disguise) whom no one has defeated. Naturally, Balin instigates a duel with the notorious knight and his success is also his demise.
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