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At the start of the story, King Arthur is a young man, anxiously awaiting the arrival of his bride, Guinevere, who shares a similar amount of anxiety. Hilarity Ensues for a short while before they are married, but Merlin is abducted by Nimue before he can warn Arthur of the perils of the future. King Arthur decides to write a new code of chivalry, "where violence is not strength, and mercy is not weakness," and forms the round table.
Then comes along Sir Lancelot, an enormous braggart. Nobody really likes him that much, until he wins the tournament and seems to bring a slain knight back from the dead. Guinevere and Lancelot fall in love, which Arthur becomes painfully aware of.
It Gets Worse when Mordred, Arthur's illegitimate son comes, with the intention of ruining his father. He turns the knights back to their barbaric ways, and exposes the affair between Guinevere and Lancelot, leaving Arthur no choice but to have her executed. Lancelot comes rushing in to rescue her, but it incites a war.
The musical is most heavily associated with the Kennedy Administration, as JFK was a fan of the show.
Later adapted in 1968 by Warner Brothers into a movie starring Richard Harris as Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave as Guinevere and Franco Nero as Lancelot.
For the 2011 television series produced by Starz and GK-TV, see here.
This work contains examples of:
- The Ace: Sir Lancelot
- Badass Baritone: Again, Sir Lancelot
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Guinevere prays for "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood," which includes a knight pining for her, her being competed for, and people starting a "little war" for her. She gets all she asks for, but at the cost of her marriage and Camelot itself.
- Being Evil Sucks: Arthur tries to convince Mordred of this.
- Being Good Sucks: Mordred convinces the knights of this in "Fie on Goodness."
- Bittersweet Ending: Arthur's Utopian dream is crushed, and he's about to head into a war that you know will result in a massacre if you've read the legends. But he's assured that at least what he and his men did will be remembered, as one young boy escapes the battlefield to tell the tale.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Mordred
- Cut Song: "Fie on Goodness" is cut from some productions. Another number, between Mordred and Morgan LeFey, is often cut. Nobody misses it.
- Dark Reprise: Of the title song, towards the end. Though it's more bittersweet than dark.
- Flash Back: The re-worked version(taken from the film) has the entire show be a flashback from the perspective of King Arthur on the night before the final battle.
- "I Am" Song: "C'est Moi."
- One-Scene Wonder: Nimue, singing "Follow Me."
- Only Mostly Dead: Sir Lionel at the jousting.
- Ted Baxter: Sir Lancelot is this, to everyone's irritation.
- Villain Song: "The Seven Deadly Virtues" and "Fie on Goodness"