Feminine Quests in Arthurian Legends

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Spangler, Emily
Spangler, E., March 2015 www.sparksjournal.org/feminine-quests
This paper examines the correlation between women, purpose, and power within the medieval Arthurian legends. Women had little to no power during the Middle Ages, and the patriarchal ideology that dominated the culture is reflected in literature. However, my essay shows that even though women play supporting roles in Arthurian legends, they often propel the plotline to heroism and adventure. Often nameless, they barely get credit for their characterization, but my analysis of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a chivalric romance, and “Lanval,” one of Marie de France’s lais, illustrates how the tales’ women characters wield more power than one would expect. Lady Bertilak controls Gawain through tokens and guilt, while the fairy woman from “Lanval” becomes a heroine in her own right by “saving” Lanval from Arthur’s court. Through close textual analysis and extensive research from scholars who specialize in medieval literature, I show how powerful women can be found in Arthurian legends.