There is a form of pure love and authentic chivalry that permeates throughout the Arthurian legends. Elements of loyalty and valor accompany these concepts, and all are equally represented in Chretien de Troyes' The Knight of the Cart, or more commonly known as Lancelot, the original text that portrayed the adulterous affair between Lancelot, a knight in Arthur’s court, and Arthur’s queen, Guinevere. In a similar style to the aithed (Kibler 112)—or Celtic tale of abduction —Chretien crafts a time enduring legend in which in our knight of the cart, Lancelot embarks on a romantic and chivalric quest in search of the queen, for Meleagant has taken her as prisoner to his otherworldly realm of Gorre. Along this journey, Lancelot encounters a myriad of perhaps unbearable tests and tribulations, yet he never fails to rise above these trials and continue on in his pursuit for his great love. However, all the adventures Lancelot endures all stem from one fleeting moment comprised of great sin, the instance where Lancelot hesitates for two steps before climbing into the cart that permanently shames all who ride within it.
The force that compels Lancelot to undertake the cart is simply the great love he feels for his queen pushing him closer towards his goal, but the reasoned reluctance that stalls Lancelot is a competing goal to obey to the expectations of knighthood. Throughout the rest of the text, Lancelot repents for his great sin by “serv[ing] women unhesitatingly, for having shown the slightest preference for knightly honor over amorous duty” (Kibler 113). Chretien’s concise language and fictional portrayal of romantic ideologies of fin’ amors—or courtly love— illuminates unto the reader that the miniscule yet vastly significant moment of Lancelot’s unwillingness to climb into the cart is the most substantial insight of Lancelot’s moral and innate character. As well, Chretien’s conscious literary choices reveal the beliefs the court held on the matters of courtly love, the driving force that propels Lancelot forward throughout his gallant endeavor.
Though for much of the tale Lancelot remains a nameless protagonist, Chretien goes into great linguistic detail when describing the deeds and characteristics of this knight of the cart. And with the moment at the undertaking of the cart, Lancelot’s condemning indecision is depicted with succinct yet precise diction. By examining the words that characterize Lancelot’s skepticism to board the cart, the ideas about courtly love and knighthood duties are lucidly displayed.
The two-step hesitation results from Lancelot’s internal dissidence is a result of the conflicting ideals he possesses. At this point in the text, Chretien introduces the personified Reason and Love characters that are cause for Lancelot’s inner warring, stating that “Reason, who does not follow Love’s command, told him to aware of getting in, warned and counseled him not to do anything for which he might incur disgrace or reproach”...