Chrétien de Troyes' Lancelot
The romance of Lancelot and Guinevere has endured for many years and has been told in different languages to different generations. The pure, undying love Lancelot carries for his lady seems to spark fascination in people's hearts and minds. It is the reflection of courtly love pitted against reason that keeps each retelling fresh. Lancelot is moved from a mere character to a legendary figure because of this. Chrétien de Troyes' Lancelot faces many obstacles, leaving the reader to ask: is Lancelot a true hero, or merely a man put into extraordinary situations, flaws and all? Or perhaps he is just a victim of fate. In The Knight of the Cart we see Lancelot at his best- and perhaps worst.
Since the story of Lancelot has so many different versions it is important to know where Chrétien's version came from and how he shaped it. He developed his story under the influence of Marie de Champagne, who was fond of love stories in this genre. Because of the reaction to another famous story, that of Tristan and Iseut, Chrétien was encouraged to compose a story with similarities. His approach, according to Lori J. Walters, rejected the idea that marriage could resolve a plot (as shown Tristan's story), and instead used the ideas of romance against ideas of social order (Walters xiii-xiv). However others, like Stephan Knight, feel that Chrétien's story was more an attempt to display the observances of courtly love and was not a well told story (Knight). While Chrétien's story does rely on courtly love to justify the actions of its hero, his journey does include complexities that add to Lancelot's character. Agreeing with Knight would over look the structure of Chrétien story, one that shows Lancelot as an individual and conveys him as a true and loyal hero as he is guided by courtly love.
Knowing more information about Lancelot gives us more insight into Lancelot as a character. Though Chrétien was the first to...