Forests and plains. Areas outside Camelot and the other dwelling places of the knights throughout the kingdom. Using a time-honored comparison, Tennyson contrasts the city and castle with the countryside. In Camelot, men and women exhibit both knightly and Christian virtues; in the natural world, however, men and women often resort to practices that demonstrate their kinship with the beasts. Far from being idyllic, the woods and fields of Arthur’s kingdom are often places where danger lurks, principally because these regions are inhabited by outcasts from Camelot or people who choose to live by values contrary to the ones the king espouses.
Wastelands. Location where many of King Arthur’s knights search for the Holy Grail. Like other writers of Arthurian legend, Tennyson creates vivid descriptions of the filth, squalor, and aridity of a land clearly in need of tending. In traditional versions of the legend, the discovery of the Grail was to lead to restoration of the land’s fertility. For the knights in Idylls of the King the search for the Grail proves fruitless, and the land remains barren. The ill-fated quest provides Arthur an opportunity to explain to his subjects that it is not in seeking remote conquests that the kingdom is served, but rather in staying close to home and handling the domestic, social, and political tasks that are part of everyday living.
Red Knight’s castle. Home of the knight Pelleas, who becomes disillusioned with Arthur’s court after discovering that the woman he loves is unfaithful. Though mentioned in only one scene, the castle’s importance to the theme of the poem is significant. After Pelleas leaves Camelot, he sets up an alternative order of knights, who behave openly as brigands, lechers, and moral degenerates. When Arthur sends a force to wipe out this rogue order, Pelleas tells the invaders from Camelot that his castle houses knights who, though immoral, are actually better than those in Arthur’s city. They are not hypocrites like those at Camelot who publicly espouse high virtue but in fact act basely.
Battlefields. Locations of Arthur’s initial struggles to unite the petty kingdoms of the country and of his last fight to preserve his kingdom against his nephew Mordred. In Tennyson’s poem, battlefields are not only places of destruction, they are locales shrouded in mist and fog, places where friend and enemy are indistinguishable. Tennyson contrasts the mayhem of the battlefield with the civility of the court to demonstrate the precarious nature of the civilization Arthur establishes at Camelot.