Summary and Analysis
Book 8: The Death of King Arthur:
The Death of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere
When Launcelot hears of the death of Arthur and Gawain, he comes to England in haste. He looks for the queen and finds her in a nunnery. For love of Guinevere as much as for remorse he takes on the habit of a priest. Guided by visions, he goes to Almesbury, where he finds Guinevere dead. He buries her beside King Arthur, then sickens and dies himself. He is buried at Joyous Gard. Constantine reigns after Arthur, but the scant remnants of the Round Table are dispersed. Bors, Ector, Blamour, and Bleoberis go to the Holy Land to fight the infidel. The rest simply wander off.
The sword with which Arthur hacked civilization out of a wilderness was only a loan, whatever Arthur and the wizard-tempter who created him may have hoped. It is returned at last to the terrible Power which moves behind the jerking-puppet machinations of wizards and men, the Power to which Galahad and Launcelot pray. Triumphantly — and menacingly — the hand reaching out of the water brandishes the sword three times.
So, too, Guinevere's love for Launcelot was only a loan. She returns for the last time to sleep with her husband, and Launcelot dies, to be buried in the castle with the bitterly ironic name of "Joyous Gard." The tragedy is finished.