GUINEVERE by Norma Lorre Goodrich


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 Having masterfully re-created the major characters and events of Arthurian romance in King Arthur (1986) and Merlin (1987), Goodrich brings her scholarly skills, her prodigious knowledge of sixth-century Britain, and her impassioned style to vindicate Guinevere and rescue her from the obscurities of time. This Guinevere is a collective identity derived from history, legend, myth, literature, and scholarly debate. Slipping often from fact to faith, Goodrich claims that Arthur married Guinevere for her dowry, the Eastern Highlands of Scotland including ``Camelot'' and an estate called ``the Round Table.'' Under matriarchal law, this land became Arthur's as soon as the marriage was consummated, placing Guinevere, like all young brides under this law, in great danger. Guinevere was afflicted as well with a sister also called ``Guinevere,'' possibly a twin. Attempting to replace the true Guinevere in Arthur's bed, the sister subjected the queen to various abductions, temptations, and accusations. According to Goodrich, poor Guinevere won the protection of Lancelot, supposedly her younger brother; and, as Druid priestess, she assisted him in his initiation rites by visiting the Underworld. He became known as her lover, Goodrich says, when several hundred years after their death around 542, someone mistranslated the word ``alter'' for ``bed.'' Erudite but not scholarly and lacking rigor in organization and argument. And while she depends on legend herself, with gratuitous sarcasm Goodrich accuses scholars who reject the historical validity of Arthurian romances of merely trying to protect their tenure. Still, fascinating reading, great detective work, and of considerable interest in the history of feminism. (Fifteen b&w photographs and drawings.)

Pub Date: June 5th, 1991
ISBN: 0-06-016442-5
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991


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