ABSTRACT

The thirteenth-century Lancelot-Grail Cycle, also called the Vulgate Cycle, is an outstanding Arthurian literary achievement. One of the contributions of the Cycle is a detailed Bildungsroman of Lancelot of the Lake, who was raised by the Lady of the Lake in an idealized environment, “the Lake of Diana.” The Vulgate writers skillfully merged geographical and topographical features with supernatural elements in depicting the Lake, thus producing new literary effects not seen before in the Arthuriad. Not only does the idyllic setting of the Lake evoke the pastoral imagery of classical Arcadia, the name of the Lake itself also alludes to a classical association with Artemis/Diana and to her image as the deity of nutrix and “the Lady of the Lakes.” Furthermore, Diana is associated with historic Arcadia via her connection with Pan. This article argues that the geography, topography and imagery of the Lake episode aim at representing the Lake as an Arthurian Arcadia, and that the characterization of the Lady of the Lake employed significant aspects of the classical figure of Diana.

KEYWORDS: Lake of Diana, Lady of the Lake, Arthurian Arcadia, classical and historic Arcadia, geography, topography