Knights of the round table - virtues and vices?
November 3, 2015 4:23 PM   Subscribe

In the Arthurian legends pretty much every knight has a virtue which he absolutely epitomizes and an vice, typically one of the deadly sins, with which he struggles and, sometimes, is his undoing. I'm trying to put together some references to this for a role playing game type of thing and my google fu is failing me. Surely there are at least a hundred master theses on this subject alone and one of them has been reduced into a web site with a clever info-graphic. Right? Help? Anyone?
posted by Kid Charlemagne to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Google for the Pendragon rules. They are all about this, and might inspire you.
posted by gregglind at 7:14 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Civic Virtue and Vice Hope this has some helpful information.
posted by effluvia at 8:45 PM on November 3, 2015

There's a lot of variety over time in the Arthurian stories. I wonder if the association of each knight with one virtue and one vice isn't the work of a single author or analyst, rather than a common theme through the tales. Your Google-fu might actually be telling you that this hasn't been the subject of a hundred master theses!

I've read some of the stories, and their old French antecedents, and never picked up a pattern like the one you described. But then again I'm a casual reader, not a a scholar.
posted by kanewai at 10:43 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Spenser was probably the closest to this model, via The Faerie Queen, but only got through 6 books. Try adding that to your search.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:08 AM on November 4, 2015

Very interesting question! I study this area and you're right that this kind of duality is common in Arthurian chivalric romances, but it's not a tidy one-to-one correspondence (I agree with kanewai that this is probably why your search is in vain). The "code of chivalry" shifts over time and between different cultures, and learning/defining it is often an overt source of conflict within the stories.

Individual stories do assign to individual characters certain qualities that have to be overcome as challenges within the chivalric quest, but that's not necessarily because they are vices - for example in Chr├ętien de Troyes' Chevalier de la Charrette Lancelot has to overcome pride, but this is not because it is his vice per se, but because since pride actually has great value within the chivalric system, Lancelot's humbling himself in the eyes of his peers is a meaningful sacrifice.

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain is represented by a shield with a pentangle on it representing different knightly virtues, which might be of interest to you (see here). The conflict in this story has to do not with Gawain's vices exactly, but with whether these virtues can be made manifest in a fallen world.

FWIW your question made me think of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which does take this one-to-one correspondence pretty literally (and hilariously) in the stories about "Sir Lancelot the Brave, Sir Galahad the Pure, and Sir Robin the not-quite-so-brave-as-Sir-Lancelot."

Good luck!
posted by Owl of Athena at 8:29 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

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