Guinevere: The Fall of the Arthurian Legend
During the Victorian Age, we see a resurgence of Medievalist practices and ideas. Many writers and poets recreated the Arthurian Legend through a Victorian lens. The Victorian Era was a romanticized time period with strict moral and social codes of conduct. This is clearly portrayed in Tennyson’s work Idylls of the King – a Victorian rendition of the legend of King Arthur. Lord Alfred Tennyson is known as one of the “Victorians” due to his poetry that so greatly accepted and promoted the Victorian culture. William Morris, on the other hand, was more ahead of his time. His works often included a resistance to the conventional assumptions of the Victorian Age and he was associated with an artistic reform movement called the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. This group of artists, poets, and writers rejected the current artistic movements during the 19th century and tried to focus on the classical eras. The character of Queen Guinevere evolves from an immoral and adulterous woman in Idylls of the King to a liberated and strong-minded woman in The Defence of Guenevere.
In Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, Guinevere is portrayed as an adulterous, weak-minded, woman who ultimately causes the fall of the Arthurian Kingdom. Tennyson’s Guinevere represents the Victorian Age as an example of what not to do if you're a woman. Women in this era were viewed as the guardians of morality. They were expected to be a part of only the domestic sphere of social life. This viewpoint is clearly reflected in Tennyson’s work. When King Arthur comes to see Queen Guinevere at the convent, Guinevere “grovelled with her face against the floor” and “grovelled at his feet.” (Tennyson) She never looks at Arthur, but hides her face out of shame. Guinevere representing the spiritual guardian of the court, feels too ashamed to show her face after she herself commits adultery. In William Morris' The Defence of Guenevere, we see a stronger...
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