Thomas Malory employs the Christian narrative of sin and redemption through many characters in his work, Le Morte D’Arthur. Lancelot was portrayed as the principal protagonist of Malory’s work, who struggles with his personal religion in a secular environment rather than seeking salvation and approval from God through Catholic rituals. Throughout Le Morte D’Arthur, Lancelot endeavours to follow Christian principles but succumbs to his romance with Guenevere, so emphasizing his fallible nature. By engaging in the Grail Quest, participating in the Healing of Sir Urry, and adhering to the knightly code, Lancelot demonstrates his ongoing pursuit of God and the strengthening of his faith (Pierce, 103). Malory portrays Lancelot as a character who, like certain figures from the Bible, can overcome significant wrongdoing and achieve redemption.
Lancelot fights with sin, a universal human battle, but he persists in seeking God, believing that his virtuous character, shown by his unwavering loyalty to Arthur and the court, as well as his commitment to leading a righteous life, would suffice in making him a true Christian. Malory uses the Pentecostal Oath to depict Lancelot’s internal conflict between his noble and sinful sides, enabling him to portray the consequences of life with dual identities (Pierce, 98). Despite acquiring the ability to pray and being shown a glimpse of the Grail, Lancelot is unable to relinquish his sin, resulting in his failure. After completing the mission, he lost his title as the finest knight.
Malory portrays Lancelot as a damaged character; however, he also presents him as forgiving and exemplary. After Arthur’s kingdom is destroyed, Lancelot chooses a life of solitude and dedicates himself entirely to the pursuit of God. Lancelot attains the salvation he desires by comprehending the need for a devout individual to personally pursue a connection with God (Hulshof, 60). Malory’s tale diverges from conventional Christian customs that mainly depended on the church, instead enabling Lancelot to pursue atonement independently, fostering a personal connection between man and God.
Hulshof, Casey. “And thus was the quest begonne in them”: Conversion of the Heart through
Catholicism in Le Morte D’Arthur. Diss. 2022. Honors Program Thesis, Baylor University
Pierce, Ingrid. “Seeing People and Seeing God: Rethinking the Active and Contemplative Lives
in Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur.” The Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures 50.1 (2024): 90-114.