Book Report/Character Analysis on the Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck

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The Acts of King Arthur and His
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Noble Knights
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By John Steinbeck
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Part One: Plot
The first section of the book is entitled Merlin. The story begins by telling how Arthur came to be born and then flows into the life of Arthur. When Arthur is in his earlier years, God brings about a sword driven into an anvil set in stone. The gold writing on the stone claims that only the person meant to be King of England by right of birth shall be able to pull it out of the stone’s death grip. Many knights try to pull the sword from the stone, but all end up with nothing but tired hands. One day Arthur rides over to the divine sword with the intention of delivering it to his brother. Arthur walks up, grasps the sword by the handle, and easily and fiercely draws it from the anvil and the stone. Shortly after that Arthur is declared the King of England. Many people are jealous and doubt his right to rule, but there are also many who are happy for the young fellow. With the help of Merlin, Arthur grows up to be a magnificent king, righting wrongs and restoring peace to his kingdom. Some form of war is always occurring, and through Merlin’s guidance and prophesy Arthur is able to win many battles and become a highly respected king throughout the land. It is also in this first section that the ideas and rules of chivalry and knighthood are established; honor is very important to every knight, along with showing mercy when it is asked for and fighting for the rights of all ladies. It is clear that there is no central form of law enforcement during the time of King Arthur. Each knight can kill another knight with no fear of punishment as long as the death is the result of an agreed joust or sword fight. Later in the story Arthur realizes that a central government will eventually be necessary, but he does not think twice upon the matter. Towards the earlier period of Arthur’s rule, Merlin takes Arthur to the Lady of the Lake. She gives Arthur a sword, Excalibur, along with a magical scabbard that protects the wearer from any loss of blood. In return, Arthur must agree to grant her a favor which she will ask of him at a future date. Arthur agrees and takes his new possessions back to Camelot. Shortly after, Merlin prophesizes that Arthur’s son, Mordred, will grow up to destroy Arthur. Upon hearing of this, Arthur ships baby Mordred out to sea, unaware that the boat would wash back to shore and that Mordred would be cared for and raised by a man and his wife. The second section is entitled The Knight With Two Swords. A damsel comes into King Arthur’s court bearing a noble sword, claiming only the most brave and honorable of a man can take it from her grasp. She also requires that the man be of noble blood and of good repute. Arthur, along with many other great and honorable knights, attempt but fail to take it from her hold.

Sir Balin, who had been held prisoner for six months, asked for a try at the sword. He is poorly dressed, and she is reluctant to let him try. Sir Balin draws the sword effortlessly and all around him are astonished. The damsel asks for the sword back, but Balin refuses, saying he will not give it up until someone takes it from him by force. She says that if he keeps it, Balin will use it to kill his best friend and the man he loves most in the world. Balin asks permission of the King to leave, and although Arthur does not approve of Balin’s choice, he grants him his request, only asking that he not be gone for too long.

The Lady of the Lake shows up to Arthur’s court just before Balin leaves. She reminds Arthur of the favor he promised her in the past. Arthur hasn’t forgotten and tells her to go ahead and ask...
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