“Guards, Knights, Squires; prepare for battle!” Hollers one of the king’s noble knights. The rumbling thunder of horses trotting across the wooden mote bridge echoes throughout the castle. Brave knights gallop their horses into the foggy mist where swords and shields smash, the sounds of their armor and their striking metals echo across the land they battle over.
Blood oozes from severed bodies as limbs are sliced off men like cheese. These barbaric and berserk behaviors were the everyday duties of men during the Middle Ages. Becoming a knight was the ideal manhood during this time. Every aspect of a man’s life revolved around their desire to one day serve their king as a knight.
The yearning aspiration to become a knight is portrayed in several ways in John Boorman’s movie, Excalibur. Arthur’s responsibility as a squire (before he was king), Lancelot’s challenge of worthiness, and Perceval’s ambition illustrate the urge that exists in men to serve their king as a knight.
The responsibilities of a squire serving a knight are one way in which a man is eventually knighted. In the early opening scenes of the movie Excalibur, young Arthur serves as a squire to his brother Kay. Squires were the duties of young men who served their knights by preparing their armor and weaponry.
During some of the jousting scenes, squires retrieve jousts and pass them over to their knights, but never really assist in combat. Just from the experience and duties as a squire, it is typical that a young squire may eventually become a knight.
However, in the movie during an Easter afternoon, the knights are jousting for the right to attempt to draw the sword from the stone, and young Arthur forgets his brother’s sword. So young Arthur runs back to the camp to retrieve it and finds it has been stolen.
He chases after the peasant thief into the woods but the thief gets away. Arthur then turns and faces the sword in the stone and unintentionally draws the sword from the stone and he becomes king. If Arthur had not been the pre-chosen king, he probably would have grown up as an ordinary squire and then eventually become knighted.
Later in the movie when Arthur is an admirable king, he and his knights come across a bridge where they meet a knight by the name of Sir Lancelot of the Lake. Lancelot and King Arthur’s men joust to cross the bridge but Arthur’s knights fail. Although Lancelot is already a knight, he seeks a king worthy of his skill to serve under.
So King Arthur and Sir Lancelot joust each other; it is evident that Lancelot was supposed to win the battle but Arthur’s rage for power overcomes him and he calls upon the magical power of Excalibur to win his battle with Lancelot. Since the sword’s power was meant to unite all men and Arthur uses it to defeat Lancelot, the sword snaps in half like a chocolate bar. Arthur tosses the broken sword into the lake. After Arthur recognizes what he has done, the lady of the lake returns Excalibur to King Arthur in perfect condition and Lancelot is revived. Arthur then makes Lancelot his champion and Lancelot becomes Arthur’s noblest knight.
While Lancelot is resting in the forest, a peasant comes across Lancelot and attempts to steal Lancelot’s sword. But Lancelot is too keen to have his sword stolen by a peasant boy. The boy, Perceval wants to become a knight and wants to follow Lancelot back to Camelot to be knighted. Lancelot offers the boy on horseback to Camelot, but the boy wishes to run behind Lancelot all the way to Camelot even though it is twenty days away. The persistent boy who craves to become a knight follows behind Lancelot all the way to Camelot, to prove his worthiness one might conclude. But he is not knighted right away.
Later on, Gawain accuses Lancelot of his betrayal of the King’s wife. During the middle ages, the process for settling disputes was not by any form of court, but they choose to settle by jousting. Unfortunately, Lancelot does not show up in time for the trial joust. Not one knight steps forward to take Lancelot’s place, so Perceval steps forward and chooses to champion the queen. Therefore Arthur has no other choice but to knight Perceval in order for him to joust Gawain. Just in the nick of time, Lancelot shows up and Perceval is relieved from any danger. Although jousting was extremely dangerous, Perceval saw it as his only chance to become a knight and serve King Arthur.
During the Middle Ages, it was important for men to have the honor to serve their king. Honor, humility, faith, pride, purity, and nobility were medieval virtues that men cherished. Men strived at the chance to become a knight and be a member of the king’s aristocracy, the Knights of the Round Table.
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