Idylls of the King By Alfred, Lord Tennyson Summary and Analysis Geraint and Enid

Summary

Geraint and Enid set out on their journey that very morning. All their troubles, the poet comments, are due to Geraint's susceptibility to the common, human failing of not being able to discern between truth and falsity.

Geraint orders Enid to ride in front of him and not to speak, whatever the provocation. Perhaps, Tennyson hints, this command is because he still loves her and is afraid that in some outburst of his brooding jealousy he will harm her. Before they have ridden three paces, Geraint shouts:

"Effeminate as I am,
I will not fight my way with gilded arms,
All shall be iron; . . ."

He tosses away his purse and sends his squire home. The two ride on slowly into the bandit-infested wilderness adjoining Devon. Neither speaks, and both look pale and unhappy. Enid muses sadly:

"If there be such in me,
I might amend it by the grace of Heaven,
If he would only speak and tell me of it."

After a while, Enid notices three knights and overhears them planning to attack Geraint. He is riding so listlessly that he inspires no fear in them. She does not wish to disobey his order to her, but is afraid that he might be harmed. Finally she rides back and warns him. Rather than show any gratitude, Geraint criticizes Enid for her disobedience and needles her about his suspicion that she really wants him to be defeated. Geraint engages the knights and is victorious. He piles the armor of the dead knights on their horses and makes Enid lead them as she rides.

The same episode is repeated again with three other knights, and once more Geraint chastises Enid for her disobedience. He is triumphant in each fight. Now Enid is forced to lead six captured horses. Geraint has some sympathy for her difficulty handling them, but does not offer to help.

In the afternoon, Geraint and Enid dine with some farm workers and are then guided to an inn for the night. After arranging for accommodations, Geraint continues to be sullen and nasty. Later that evening, they are visited at the inn by the local ruler, Earl Limours, who, by chance, happens to have once been a suitor of Enid's. Limours is a crude drunkard, and Geraint callously allows him to make all sorts of coarse jokes, much to the distress and embarrassment of Enid. Before leaving for the night, Limours informs Enid that he still loves her and plans the next morning to rescue her from her cruel husband.

When day breaks, Enid warns Geraint of the plot. He, of course, suspects her of having encouraged the earl and is angry. They leave the inn immediately but are pursued by Limours and his followers. In a running fight, Geraint is able to drive them off.

Soon the unhappy couple enters the lawless territory of Earl Doorm the Bull. Suddenly Geraint collapses, for he was wounded in the battle with Limours' men, but said nothing. His injury is serious, and Enid is powerless to aid him. She sits by his side, weeping while he lies unconscious. All the passersby are afraid to offer any help.

After a while, Doorm and his soldiers ride past, returning from a raid. The outlaw earl's curiosity is aroused by the lovely maiden and he questions her. Doorm insists that the wounded knight is dead, but Enid refuses to believe him. Doorm says:

"Well, if he be not dead,
Why wail ye for him thus? Ye seem a child.
And he be dead, I count you for a fool;
Your wailing will not quicken him; dead or not,
Ye mar a comely face with idiot tears. . . . "

The outlaw chieftain has his soldiers bring Geraint's body and Enid to his stronghold.

In Doorm's hall that night, a banquet takes place. His rough soldiers and their lewd women drink heavily and exchange ribald jests. Meanwhile, Enid sits in a corner tending Geraint's body. She refuses to eat or drink and is obsessed with the thought that he is still alive. Doorm approaches Enid and, after offering her food, drink, and new clothing, tries to force her to become his mistress. Geraint revives and overhears, but pretends to be dead in order to test Enid's fidelity to him. She continues to refuse Doorm's advances, and the earl angrily slaps her. Geraint leaps up and stabs the robber chief. The soldiers and women scatter in panic. Geraint apologizes to Enid for his misuse of her, and the two then flee, fearing that Doorm's spearmen will seek revenge.

As they gallop off together on one horse, they meet Edyrn, son of Nudd. He informs them that he is an advance scout for an army led by Arthur to rid this province of thieves and outlaws. He offers to guide them to the king's camp.

At first Enid is afraid of her cousin, but he informs her that she no longer has any grounds for worry. Through the influence of Guinevere and Dubric and others at the court, he has become a reformed man and is now a Knight of the Round Table.

At the camp, Geraint reports to Arthur. The king informs him that his original request to return to Devon had been a reminder of the sorry conditions in this area and had motivated the present punitive expedition. Moreover, Arthur praises the change in the character of Edyrn and expresses pride in the moral influence that his court has had on the young man. Hearing this praise, Geraint becomes deeply ashamed of his blameworthy and pointless behavior.

Geraint's wounds are cared for by the king's own surgeon. In their tent that night, Geraint and Enid are reconciled. Meanwhile, Arthur continues his police operations in this lawless territory. New officers and judges are appointed to "guard the justice of the King," and the army destroys all the bandits' strongholds.

When Geraint is well again they all return to Caerleon. Guinevere and Enid renew their friendship, and although Geraint is never again as happy about their relationship as he once was, he no longer suspects his wife of infidelity.

Later on, the happy couple returns to Devon. Geraint's chivalrous and commendable behavior as ruler and knight ends all rumors about him. In time, children are born to them, and the small family lives a happy and long life together. Never again does Geraint doubt the love or loyalty of Enid. Many years later, Geraint dies a noble death while fighting for the king in a battle against the northern heathen.

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