Elaine of Astolat

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Henry Meynell Rheam's The Lady of Shalott

Elaine of Astolat (/ˈæstəˌlæt, -ɑːt/[1]), also known as Elayne of Ascolat and other variants of the name, is a figure in Arthurian legend. She is a lady from the castle of Astolat who dies of her unrequited love for Sir Lancelot. Well-known versions of her story appear in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur and Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King, as well as in Tennyson's poem "The Lady of Shalott".

Legend[edit]

A version of the story appeared in the early 13th-century French Mort Artu, in which the Lady of Escalot (Demoiselle d'Escalot) dies of unrequited love for Lancelot and drifts down a river to Camelot in a boat.[2] Another version is told in the 13th-century Italian novella La Donna di Scalotta (No. LXXXII in the collection Cento Novelle Antiche). Two of Tennyson's poems, both titled "The Lady of Shalott" (1832 and 1842), were inspired by the Italian version.[3][4] In the 14th-century English Stanzaic Morte Darthur, she is known as the Maid of Ascolot.

Le Morte d'Arthur[edit]

Sidney Paget, Lancelot and Elaine

In Thomas Malory's 15th-century Le Morte d'Arthur, Elaine's story begins when her father Bernard of Astolat organises a jousting tournament, attended by King Arthur and his knights. While Sir Lancelot was not originally planning to attend, he is persuaded otherwise and visits Bernard and his two sons before the tournament. While Lancelot is in her family's household, Elaine becomes enamoured of him and begs him to wear her token at the coming tournament. Explaining that Queen Guinevere would be at the tournament, he consents to wear the token but says that he will have to fight in disguise so as not to be recognized. He asks Bernard if he can leave his recognizable shield with him and borrow another. Bernard agrees and lends him the plain-white shield of Sir Torre, Elaine's brother. Lancelot goes on to win the jousting tournament, still in disguise, fighting against King Arthur's party and beating forty of them in the tournament. He does, however, receive an injury to his side from Bors' lance, and is carried off the field by Elaine's other brother, Sir Lavaine, to the hermit Sir Baudwin's cave (Baudwin being a former knight of the Round Table himself). Elaine then urges her father to let her bring the wounded Lancelot to her chambers, where she nurses him.

When Lancelot is well, he makes ready to leave, and offers to pay Elaine for her services; insulted, Elaine brings him his shield, which she had been guarding, and a wary Lancelot leaves the castle, never to return but now aware of her feelings for him. Ten days later, Elaine dies of heartbreak. In accordance with her instructions, her body is placed in a small boat, clutching a lily in one hand, and her final letter in the other. She then floats down the river to Camelot (Winchester), where she is discovered by King Arthur's court, who call her 'a little lily maiden'. Lancelot is summoned and hears the contents of the letter, after which he explains what happened. Lancelot proceeds to pay for a rich funeral.[5]

Modern culture[edit]

In art[edit]

Elaine's body arrives at Camelot in 19th-century painting by unknown artist

Elaine has captured the minds of many artists, becoming one of the most recognizable tertiary characters from the Arthurian legends. Those who have depicted her story in art include Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John William Waterhouse (The Lady of Shalott, The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Said the Lady of Shalott), Howard Pyle, Louis Rhead, Elizabeth Siddal, Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale, and Robert Gibb, among others.

Adaptations[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Astolat". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  2. ^ Lancelot-Grail: The Story And Its Branches Archived 2007-07-28 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ L.S. Potwin, "The Source of Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott" Modern Language Notes, 17.8 (1902): 237-239. [1]
  4. ^ "Tennyson, Alfred Lord - Robbins Library Digital Projects".
  5. ^ "The Fair Maiden of Astolat Book Summary & Facts". Arthurian Legend. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  6. ^ "Arthurian Miscellany: The Water Carriers, by Oscar Fay Adams [1886]". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  7. ^ "Arthur the King; or, The Knights of the Round Table, and other funny-ture. A Burlesque Extravaganza | Robbins Library Digital Projects". d.lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  8. ^ "The Camelot Jousts | Robbins Library Digital Projects". d.lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  9. ^ "S.FW - The Ballad Of Elaine". www.sfw.org.uk. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  10. ^ "Arthurian Miscellany: Sir Tray: An Arthurian Idyl, by General Edward Hamley [1873]". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  11. ^ "For All Ladies of Shalott | Robbins Library Digital Projects". d.lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  12. ^ "A Legend of Tintagel Castle | Robbins Library Digital Projects". d.lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  13. ^ "The Lady of Shalott | Robbins Library Digital Projects". d.lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  14. ^ "Elayne le Blanc | Robbins Library Digital Projects". d.lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  15. ^ "Elaine | Robbins Library Digital Projects". d.lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  16. ^ "Elaine the Fair Accuses Lancelot | Robbins Library Digital Projects". d.lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  17. ^ "Elaine and Elaine | Robbins Library Digital Projects". d.lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  18. ^ "The Lady of Shalott | Robbins Library Digital Projects". d.lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  19. ^ "Arthurian Miscellany: Rosenthal's Elaine, by William Henry Rhodes [1876]". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  20. ^ "Lancelot and Elaine: A Play in Five Acts | Robbins Library Digital Projects". d.lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  21. ^ Foundation, Poetry (2019-03-01). "Before the Mirror by Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  22. ^ "The Lady of Shalott (1833 & 1842 Versions) | Robbins Library Digital Projects". d.lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  23. ^ "Lancelot and Elaine | Robbins Library Digital Projects". d.lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-01.

External links[edit]