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Summary and Notes
Lancelot stays on at Corbin, lovesick for Guenever. He does not notice that Elaine, the boiled girl, has fallen in love with him. Elaineís butler takes control of the situation.
The butler gets Lancelot drunk, and Lancelot, unused to strong drink, begins to talk to the butler about love. In the midst of his despair, the butlerís wife arrives with a message for Lancelot. The message says that Guenever is waiting for him at a nearby castle. Lancelot staggers out the door to make love to her.
When he wakes up the next day, he discovers, tragically, that he been tricked and has made love to Elaine in his drunkenness rather than Guenever. There was never a note from Guenever at all; rather this was an elaborate ruse so that Elaine could ensnare him.
Lancelot, in his sorrow, threatens to kill Elaine, but his sadness overcomes him and he begins to sob. Lancelot defends herself by telling Lancelot that she loves him and her love made her trick him. She adds that she hopes she is pregnant, and if she is she will name the child Galahad, after his given name. Lancelot tells her that it is her problem if she is pregnant and he will be of no help to her.
This tragic scene parallels Morgauseís seduction of Arthur at the end of Book Two. Lancelot, like Arthur, is innocent in the sexual act: magic and Lancelot compel Arthur by both his love for Guenever and his drunkenness. In Arthurís case, the product of his liaison with Morgause, Mordred, is the key to his undoing.
In Lancelotís, the loss of his virginity and his honor is devastating to Lancelotís spiritual strength. As it is his spiritual strength that he believes allows him to be the first knight, this act is the beginning of the end for Lancelot. He will never again be the best knight in the way that he had been previous to this round of quests. It is fitting, then, that in conjunction with the loss of his virginity he is able to perform a miracle. Elaine allows him to both reach a new spiritual height (by saving her) and a low (by losing his purity). This chapter, then, is a turning point for Lancelot.