“Sexism him. The situation between Uther and Cornwall

“Sexism goes so deep that at first it’s
hard to see; you think it’s just reality” is a quote by Alix Kates Shulman. Shulman
was trying to say that sexism has been a part of history for a long time now,
to the point where it has become unrecognizable. Many individuals have either
experienced or witnessed sexism but have not recognize it. Sexism has been
rooted into our social norms. Sexism may be defined as the stereotyping of an
individual based on his or her sex. The Arthurian films, “Excalibur” and
“Knights of the Round Table”, expressed sexism through various characters. The
films also showed how gender roles in the community were defined and how sexism
was approved and supported by individuals within the Medieval times.

In 1981, John Boorman produced an Arthurian
film called “Excalibur”. The film started off with Merlin, a sorcerer,
retrieving the Excalibur for Uther Pendragon. The Excalibur was retrieved from
the Lady of the Lake. Uther fell in love with Igrayne,
who was the wife of his ally, Cornwall. This caused Uther and Cornwall to no
longer be allies. The love that Uther had for Igrayne is important to note
because it led Merlin to cast the Charm of Making onto Uther, to make him look
like Cornwall. As a result, Uther was capable of seducing Igrayne, which led to
her pregnancy. Merlin ended up taking Uther’s and Igrayne baby, Arthur, due to
an agreement that Merlin had with Uther prior to casting the Charm of Making on
him. The situation between Uther and Cornwall had not been resolved, instead,
it worsened.  Cornwall’s men ended up killing
Uther. Before doing so, Uther stabbed the Excalibur onto a rock. During this
scene, Merlin declared that whoever retrieves the Excalibur would become king. Fast-forward
some years, Arthur ended up retrieving the Excalibur from the stone and thus
was crowned the king.

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After some time had passed, “Excalibur”
introduced Lancelot, who is significant to this Arthurian film. Lancelot and
Arthur started off as foes, battling each other. Arthur used the powers of the
Excalibur to defeat Lancelot but later regretted his actions because his
actions caused the Excalibur to break. Eventually, the Excalibur got fixed,
thanks to the Lady of the Lake. This resolved Lancelot’s and Arthur’s
relationship. They were no longer foes. I would like to also note that the land
was brought together, no longer was it separated. Around that time, Arthur set
up the Round Table and married Guinevere. However, Lancelot had developed
feelings for Guinevere, which caused him to distance himself from the Round
Table. Though, before Lancelot distanced himself, there was a scene where he
was riding a horse alongside Guinevere. During this scene, there were a group
of girls gigging at the sight of Lancelot. At this moment, Guinevere told
Lancelot, “They want me to ask you if anyone of them can win your heart.”
Overall, the giggling girls from this scene were portrayed as airheads that
only cared about wanting a male’s affection. Whereas, this scene portrayed
Lancelot as both a superior and a gentleman. A quote that was said by Lancelot,
presenting him as being a superior figure in this scene, was, “I’m a fighting
man and sworn to the quest.” Another quote that was said by Lancelot, this time
presenting him as being a gentleman in this scene, was, “I will love you
always. I will love you as my queen and as the wife of my best friend.”
Anyways, after Lancelot distanced himself, Lancelot then returned and battled
Gawain because Gawain intended to cause trouble for Lancelot
and Guinevere with accusations that had to do with Lancelot’s love for
Guinevere. After the battle between Lancelot and Gawain, Lancelot headed into
the forest. During this time, Guinevere found out that Lancelot’s love for her
is mutual. While in the forest, Lancelot and Guinevere had sexual intercourse
and were then caught by Arthur. This led Arthur to jab the Excalibur between
them, which made Lancelot and Guinevere realize that Arthur was present and found
out about their affair. This provided Morgana with the chance to use the Charm
of Making to disguise herself as Guinevere to trick Arthur. I would like to
note that Morgana did not do this out of love for Arthur, instead, she did this
out of hatred towards Arthur and his biological father, Uther. Morgana’s father
was Cornwall, whose wife, Igrayne, had an affair with Uther unknowingly. In
this film, Morgana was portrayed as an unscrupulous woman. She was able to use
her female attributes to trick Arthur into having sex with her. She was not a
woman of honor. She was fighting the social norms of women during the Medieval times.  The Charm of Making proved reliable to
Morgana because Arthur was fooled by Morgana’s disguise. As a result, Arthur
ended up making love with Morgana, thinking that she was Guinevere. As a side
note, this situation resembles the storyline where Igrayne, Morgana’s and
Arthur’s mother, unknowingly made love to Uther because he was disguised as
Cornwall. The ingenuine sexual relationship between Morgana and Arthur led to
Morgana giving birth to a boy named Mordred. This incest caused the land to be cursed.
To remove the curse, the Holy Grail needed to be found. Perceval ended up
getting his hands on the Holy Grail because of a riddle that he successfully
answered. Perceval gave the Holy Grail to Arthur, which led to the removal of
the curse that was placed on the land. Aside from that, Arthur and Guinevere
worked things out, which led Guinevere to hand back the Excalibur to Arthur.
Guinevere had kept the Excalibur with her after Arthur had jabbed it into the
ground when he had witnessed her affair with Lancelot in the forest. Later,
during a battle against Mordred, before Lancelot died, he and Arthur had also worked
things out. Eventually, Arthur killed Mordred, who had previously killed
Morgana, with the Excalibur but got stabbed by Morded when doing so. Morgana’s
death showcased that women who challenge the social norms of society do not
succeed. She was unsuccessful in accomplishing her goal. Morgana’s actions to
obtain the throne were in vain. In the end, men were victorious compared to
women. Arthur’s last command before dying was to Perceval, whom he told to
throw the Excalibur into the water. Perceval did as
he was commanded. The Lady of the Lake caught the Excalibur.

In 1953, Pandro Berman produced an
Arthurian film called “Knights of the Round Table”. At the very beginning of
the film, it was understood that King Uther was dead, by showcasing Arthur and
his half-sister, Morgan LeFay, disputing over who was the rightful heir to
their father’s, Uther’s, throne. By Morgan Le Fay’s side was Modred, who was
her knight champion. By Arthur’s side was Merlin, who was like a father to
Arthur. Modred believed that he deserved to be the king of England. Morgan Le
Fay and Modred did not believe that Arthur should be king of England because he
was an illegitimate child. Even though Arthur is the son of King Uther, his
mother was not King Uther’s wife. Morgan Le Fay told Arthur that he was “born
in shame”. When she said that, Merlin said, “son, none the less”. Merlin ended
up uncovering a stone with the Excalibur stabbed in it that was covered with
tree branches. There were words carved on the stone, which said that whoever can
pull the sword out of the stone would be the “right wise” born king of England.
Morgan Le Fay questioned if that was the real sword. Modred then asked, if it
was the real sword, why was it that only Merlin knew where it was hidden?
Merlin answered Modred by saying that King Uther revealed it only to him the
night before his death. Modred then said, “I shall take what is mine,” and
tried to pull the Excalibur out of the stone. This scene showed Modred
struggling to pull the sword out of the stone and failed to do so. When Arthur
tried to pull the Excalibur out of the stone, he succeeded with ease. This
should have been enough evidence for Modred and Morgan Le Fay to see that
Arthur was meant to be king of England but it was not. Instead, Modred became
angry and said, “that is not the real sword”. Merlin calmly responded, “it is
the true sword,” which led Modred to shout, “it is witchcraft”. Merlin then
responded, saying “then we must summon a council… and they shall decide”. After
Modred and Morgan Le Fay storm out, Arthur shouted excitedly “king of England”,
as he held out the Excalibur. Merlin responded to Arthur’s behavior and
attitude by telling him, “Not yet, you have still to prove it by deeds not

Aside from that, another significant
aspect from “Knights of the Round” was the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere,
and Lancelot. Guinevere was portrayed as a woman committing adultery because
she found love outside her marriage. Guinevere’s affair with Lancelot showcased
her going against their social norm by fighting her husband’s authority. Women
were willing to risk it all to be with their lover, regardless of the
consequences. The secret romance that some married women partook in with a male
provided them with a sense of freedom that they could not obtain from their
husbands. They hoped to one day escape their husbands and be united with their
lovers but they knew that they would not be accepted by the English society. Arthur
and Guinevere were married, yet, she had an affair with Lancelot. Based on this
film, the penalty for Guinevere and Lancelot by law was death but King Arthur
did not order that. Instead, King Arthur ordered Guinevere to be sent to a
convent and become a nun and stay a nun until she died. As for Lancelot, King
Arthur ordered him to banish from England and to never return. Later, after
King Arthur’s death, Lancelot went to the convent to tell Guinevere that King
Arthur’s final words for Guinevere were “forgiveness” and “love”. As for the
Excalibur, when King Arthur spoke his final words to Lancelot, before he died,
he requested Lancelot to throw the Excalibur into the lake, which he did.

            The Arthurian films, “Excalibur” and “Knights of the Round
Table”, were similar in that they both showcased the events that took place
during the reign of King Arthur. Sexism in the Arthurian films was well shown
in these two movies, in various instances and through various characters (Ahem,
98). The marriage between Arthur and Guinevere was one of the ways that the difference
in gender roles between men and women was showcased. In the early 1950s, married
couples had to balance between their
lives outside their home, which included their labor and work environment, with
their domestic lifestyle. Men and women had to engage in different activities,
which embraced morals and guided their families. In Pandro Berman’s film,
“Knights of the Round Table”, Arthur was more concerned with his role as the King.
This resulted in him lacking personal time with his wife. Although Arthur loved
Guinevere, he failed to engage with his wife in activities that the social norm
during that time expected a husband to follow through with. The social norm
being that as a husband, men had to put in time to spend with their wives and involve
them in important decision makings.

For families to thrive, men in Medieval times
were expected to balance between either their business or political lives with
their lives at home. Unfortunately, some married women in the English society
were put on the side. They were not their husband’s priority, which led them to
feel emotionally and physically unwanted. As a result, this caused them to seek
love outside of their marriage.  Based on
the Arthurian films, “Excalibur” and “Knights of the Round Table”, due to Arthur’s
role as the King, he existed predominantly in the public atmosphere. He focused
mainly on his kingdom’s social affairs, thus neglecting his wife. As for Lancelot,
although he was a knight, Lancelot was able to balance between his public life
and personal life. He excelled as a fighter and won various battles. However,
he spared some time for Guinevere and expressed his love for
her. He also listened to Guinevere’s advice and married Elaine. Lancelot was portrayed
as Guinevere’s hero, saving her after she was kidnapped. This resulted in
Guinevere growing emotionally closer to Lancelot, rather than her king. Guinevere
was chosen to be the bride of King Arthur. Guinevere could not reject the
king’s marriage proposal. She had no other choice but to marry King Arthur. It
was considered an honor for her to be chosen as the wife of the king of
England. No woman could reject such a proposal made by a king, due to the
social status one would obtain after marriage.

In addition to that, the role of making
important decisions affecting the future of the land was bestowed on men. In
“Knights of the Round Table”, the council of elders that determined Arthur’s
win over Morgan, to take the throne, was predominantly made of men. In both
Arthurian films, most knights who led during the war were men. The sorcerer,
Merlin, was a man. Perceval, in “Excalibur” and Lancelot, in “Knights of the
Round Table”, who were entrusted to throw the Excalibur into the lake, were
men. This reflected a patriarchal society where men dominated all the important
positions of power. In 1953, when Pandro Berman produced “Knights of the Round
Table”, the individuals that took positions dealing with either politics or
business were usually men. Men were known to be better in making crucial
decisions regarding the kingdom. The only woman who played an important role in
“Excalibur” and “Knights of the Round Table” was the Lady of the Lake, who was
the chief custodian of the Excalibur that was used to appoint a new king. Though,
the Lady of the Lake was portrayed as a supernatural figure and not as a woman.

The English society consisted of both men
and women but decided to only use men in national development. Men made most of
the crucial decisions, while women were left out during such occasions. The
lives of women depended on the choices made by men. One of the crucial
decisions made by men regarded marriage. For example, Arthur decided to marry
Guinevere and Lancelot proposed to Elaine. Aside from personal decisions,
crucial societal decisions were also dealt by men. For instance, war, which
arose conflict, was a crucial societal decision made by men, even though both
sexes in the society were to be affected by such a decision. The results of the
patriarchal society were evident after the society experienced fights and
calamities, which may have possibly been avoided if women were also involved in
making decisions and engaged in activities that shaped their society and
improved their future lives. For example, during war, men were killed and women
were kidnapped. Thus, women ought to have been consulted before such crucial
decisions were made.

Every individual in the world wants a
chance to become successful. Regardless of their sex, societies are morally
supposed to provide both males and females with opportunities to obtain
success. However, like many societies in the 1950s, England
engaged men in challenging jobs involving either politics or business, while
segregating women from vital jobs that were hiring.  That was why men stood a better chance at
becoming more successful than women. The society reserved better job
opportunities for men and less valuable jobs for women. That was because men
were thought to make decisions based on reality, consequences, and evidence,
while women were known to make decisions based to their emotions. Also, during
that time, parents educated their sons and left their daughters uneducated
(Gilbert, 872). The main labor that women possessed were staying at home to
care for their children and doing household chores. That was because they were
considered weak to handle manual jobs. Though, there were some activities that
women carried out that depended on their status. For instance, mistresses and
servants assisted the men that took part in politics, while the wives of those
in power ensured that they supported their husbands emotionally. Women of the
upper class did not work. It was viewed in a negative aspect because they did
not need money. Upper class women had to be role models for other women that
were in lower social classes. As depicted in “Excalibur” and “Knights of the
Round Table”, the major role that women had was to maintain a good public
image. For instance, in both Arthurian films, Guinevere maintained a good
public image of her marriage with King Arthur, even though there were problems
of infidelity within their marriage. Elaine also maintained proper behavior
among the public’s eye. Though, there were some women like Morgan that felt
that they were strong and mature enough to engage in politics. Unfortunately,
their efforts were rendered unsuccessful, since women were not given a chance
to compete favorably with men.

According to “Excalibur” and “Knights of
the Round Table”, men were obligated to carry out the wishes and desires of
other men, especially those who were dying. In England’s ancient society, it
was believed that the wishes of a dying man to a fellow man, who was considered
below him in the social class, had to be implemented. Men respected the wishes
of their fellow men and fulfilled them, regardless of how unrealistic they
seemed. For instance, John Boorman’s “Excalibur” showed Perceval being ordered
by the dying King Arthur to throw the Excalibur into the lake. Although
Perceval believed that it was unrealistic to throw such an important sword into
the lake, he obeyed the wish of the dying man, a royal that was placed in the
highest social class. In “Knights of the Round Table,” King Arthur asked
Lancelot to throw the Excalibur into the lake. Although Arthur and Lancelot had
divergent views at various instances in the movie and even fought severally,
Lancelot had to fulfill the wishes of Arthur (Ahem, 102). Arthur also told
Lancelot to inform Guinevere that he had forgiven her and that he loved her so
much. Although Lancelot loved Guinevere, which meant that he would feel
uncomfortable to tell Guinevere that Arthur loved her too, he had to fulfill
the wishes of the dying man, who was a part of the social class higher than
him. This showed how men were willing to fulfill the desires of fellow men,
regardless of the enmity that existed between them. This contrasted with the
women in “Excalibur” and “Knights of the Round Table”, who did not unite and
help each other.

A second aspect of sexism that was evident
in the Arthurian films, “Excalibur” and “Knights of the Round Table”, were the
issues regarding the inheritance of the throne and power. After a king died,
someone had to be chosen to inherit the throne. According to both movies, to
inherit the throne, one had to retrieve the Excalibur and that individual had
to be a man who was related to the previous king. Since most rulers at the time
were men, women felt neglected and discriminated. No matter how strong and
intelligent a woman would be, she could not inherit the throne. In “Excalibur”,
Arthur was crowned the king since he was the son of Uther and because he was a
man. In “Knights of the Round Table”, Arthur retrieved the Excalibur and was
crowned the king, although his half-sister, Morgan, was an equally worthy heir.
Morgan believed that the throne was taken unfairly from her and assumed that Merlin
used witchcraft.

The power to rule and guide the nation was
bestowed on the crown. However, women were denied the right to inherit the
crown, either through witchcraft or various laws and rules. Men were supposedly stronger than women, and thus the law had it
that the individual who could retrieve the Excalibur from the rock would be
crowned the king (Ittmann, 82). This
law was simply put in place to ensure that women were locked out of the throne.
Women were not viewed as worthy leaders to hold such a title. Having a woman as
a queen would mean that men would have to obey the orders of a woman. The English
society was not ready for this drastic change. The roles of women were not
viewed as powerful or influential. Therefore, men would not allow a woman to
have such power and authority in Britain. It was not a part of the social norms
of Britain.

The women in “Excalibur”
and “Knights of the Round Table” strived to gain a share of power. Since
they were not appointed to leadership positions, the only way to rise to power
was after being married to a man that had connections to the noble class. In John
Boorman’s Arthurian film, “Excalibur”, Guinevere was in love with Lancelot but was
married to King Arthur. Although she wanted to be with Lancelot, since he
cherished their love, Guinevere assumingly stayed with the king so that she would
remain a part of the royal family. Although Guinevere was highly ranked in the
kingdom, her success was predominantly due to her marriage to the king and not
due to her deeds. In Pandro Berman’s Arthurian film, “Knights of the Round Table”,
Percival brought forth Elaine, his sister, to Guinevere, so that she would make
her a lady-in-waiting. This suggests that the society during ancient England
did not marry its women out of love. Instead, society tried to marry off its
women to a man that was connected to the royal family, so to prosper in life.
Thus, women believed that no matter how hard they worked it was very hard to
gain power and leadership in their kingdom. For men, if a man fought well
during battles, he was almost sure that he would become a knight or an
influential individual in the kingdom.

In addition to marriage, becoming pregnant
with a man that had connections to the circle of nobles was an easy way to gain
power. Women in the society seduced men with their beauty or used witchcraft to
lure them into sleeping with them (Gilbert, 873). In John Boorman’s movie
entitled “Excalibur”, Morgan used witchcraft to take the form of Guinevere and
seduced Arthur. After Arthur slept with her, she became pregnant with a boy, who
became named Mordred. In Pandro Berman’s movie, “Knights of the
Round Table”, Elaine was expecting a son with Lancelot. Elaine loved Lancelot but
it was also evident that bearing him a child increased her social status, since
Lancelot, a successful knight in the kingdom, was treated with high respect.
bearing a child just for social status showed how women were segregated and
disregarded in running the affairs of the kingdom. During Medieval times, women
were used to provide men with children who would inherit their family name and
pass it on to the male generations that come forth.

In conclusion, “Excalibur” and “Knights of
the Round Table” showcased how sexism in the English society was present and
supported. It was important to show how sexism occurred in ancient English societies
because societies were run by male dominate figures. Sexism in these Arthurian films
were exhibited through various ways, which included marriages, gender roles and
responsibilities, inheritance, and political processes. Male dictated the lives
of the women in their life.  In ancient
England’s society, after two individuals got married, the man was the head of
the family and the wife took care of the children and household chores. Men
made important decisions, while women only implemented the decisions. Most
leaders were men, women were denied access to the throne even when they were
its rightful heirs. This created a gender gap, which led women into deciding to
engage in revolutions to protest for their rights. Throughout time, sexism has
divided the nations sexes. Men should allow women to engage in activities that affect
their society and not restrict them to the domestic lifestyle. Women have the
ability, strength, and ideas to help change and transform the world for the
better, along with men. Women should also respect men and avoid using underhand
methods to gain power, whether through witchcraft or seduction.


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