Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Magic and Christianity in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” Essay
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a story that comprises of the themes of Christianity and magic as they both play an important role in the story. This story is full of symbols that give a Christian perspective and how human beings are naturally weak. Some of the symbols used by the author include the tap, number three and the green belt among others.
The Green Knight who is a magical creature requires a noble Knight to do something which is almost impossible. In an attempt to do what the magical creature wants, the knight encounters the temptations from a lovely lady.
However, the Knight who is named Gawain is skillful, courageous and portrays the courtesy of a chivalry to deal with the lady. This essay looks at how Christianity and magic influences the actions of the characters in the story.
Body of Essay
The story uses the tapping of Gawain symbolically to symbolize the punishment meted on him for failing to surrender the earnings. The green knight knows why Gawain is reluctant to give the green belt to the lovely lady although Gawain is scared of the penance. This story is a reflection of the biblical actions of confession and forgiveness.
This aspect of Christianity explains the action of Gawain confessing that the cut has made him a coward after the Green knight explains why he was tapped. The biblical concept of forgiveness is also exhibited and drives the action of the green Knight. After Gawain confesses his sins, the green Knight forgives him.
The green knight eventually gave the belt to Gawain so that he will not forget that they at some point met. All this while, Gawain never knew the name of the Green Knight and that is when he decided to ask him his name. In Christianity, the consumption of the fruit they had been told not to consume is what opened Adam and Eve to their nakedness.
This led them into a lot of shame that prompted them to ask why they were naked. This Christian concept is evident in this story since it is only after Gawain experiences the shame of being tapped that he asks The Green Knight his name.
Christianity uses the cross to symbolize the sinful nature of human beings that caused Jesus to die to save mankind. It reminds Christians that Jesus died for them. This concept influences the actions of King Arthur after hearing the story of Gawain. The king orders all the women serving in the court to wear green belts as symbols of their sins.
This story is full of many magical instances. For instance, the people at the court of King Arthur think that the Green Knight is a magical creature when he makes his appearance there. He is green in his entirety. To prove the magic, he picks his cut off head and speaks with it making everybody believe the magic.
Another instance of magic is evident when Morgan le Fay who is a sorceress enchants Bertilak who is normal and transforms him to become the Green Knight with the aim of terrifying the queen of Arthur and putting the knights to test. Magic is also evident when we are informed that even the birth of King Arthur was as a result of his father being deceived by his mother.
The magical incidents evident in this story influence the actions of the characters to a great extend. For instance, the fact that magic is mostly practiced by women in the story gives them the capacity to have power. Since they have the power, they are also driven by magic to abuse the power. Another impact of magic in the story is that it causes the knight to behave in a manner that earns him honor for being considered brave.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight effectively use Christianity and magic to bring out the salient concerns in the story. The author makes allusions to biblical concepts that drive most of the actions of the characters. In presenting the biblical concepts, symbols such as the green belt are used to symbolize the cross in Christianity which reminds Christians of their sins.
The author has also used magic in the story which greatly influences the characters. For example, women who are taken to practice magic more in the story wield a lot of power. Christianity and magic undoubtedly influence the characters in the story and drive their actions.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Explicatory Essay
Sir Gawain and the Green knight is a story set in the Middle English and was written by an unknown person from West Midlands. He is famed with many other works that were also written around the same period.
Sir Gawain is the protagonist in the tale. Several events in the story describe his true nature. He foregoes two daunting tests. This is a challenge that he accepts without seeking help from King Arthur’s knights; a challenge to behead the dangerous and feared Green Knight and to allow him retaliate one year after at the Green Chapel.
This added to the excitement of committing adultery with Lord Bercilak’s wife. In the real sense, it is at the Green Knight’s abode that Gawain rests on his way to the chapel. This tale is symbolic of life; how it sets trials and dares and the results that arise because of triumphing in passing these challenges. Gawain is a true depiction of heroism in the story due to his zeal and gallantry on how he handled tasks (Peters 2).
Sir Gawain is truly, a figurative character in the story. He is symbolic in the way he depicts the innocence of life. He did not fear at all to agree to all challenges since it pointed at salvaging the entire kingdom from the serious effects of anarchism that could arise from the failure of having a central king.
His acceptance to a duel against the Green Knight immediately portrayed one of the elements that knighthood stood for. This is the aspect of fearlessness. Individuals accept such dares on a daily basis. Indeed, this could be the basic foundation of the roots of the term “sticking one’s neck out”. In instances where individuals take up on certain tasks or challenges, many are never prepared to live with the results of an unsuccessful feat.
However, Gawain was the opposite of this. Peters says that after the end of one year, he bravely rode his horse and went to the Green chapel. This not only proved that he was fearless but a true hero. This was of course preceded by the caution “take caution Gawain, that you will not be a deserter of your trial through fear” (178).
Throughout his journey, Gawain encounters dangerous situations and self-reluctance in some factors and the undying exploration for the chapel. This sentiment can be exemplified as the inner suffering experienced as a consequence of dealing with personal scruples. The long journey also gauged his faith as he continually prayed throughout his travels. He did not curse or downplay God’s name at any time. Evidently, it is true that the prayers served to keep Gawain sane and committed to the reason of his journey.
Gawain’s wishes and prayers are responded to when he moves and ends arriving at a location where he could ask for an apparent rest. The castle he finds becomes the setting for his next rest. His main challenge grows as he enjoys his time at the court and discovers that there is a woman who is excited by the prospects of getting to know and understand him in a better way.
The woman turns out to be the wife of Lord Bercilak; the Green Knight. This is depicted as a temptation. The woman in question attempts to entice Gawain while her husband is on a hunting expedition. Gawain manages to rebuff her trials except for a single kiss which he talks of in a confession. The woman offers him a sash which is believed to guard anyone who wears it from an apparent harm (Williamson 27).
He takes possession of the sash, although reluctantly and does not mention to Lord Bercilak that he got it from his wife. This is because he accords most of his trust in material possession rather than God who can guard him from any form of harm. Most of his actions above are representative of his heroism save for this last act which appears to be one of his downfalls in the story.
Gawain later heads for the chapel and gets the Green Knight ready for him and honing his axe. Gawain takes a bend over a blow which is immediately feinted by the Knight. This causes Gawain to flinch and he is reprimanded by the knight for that action. The knight goes for the axe again but repeats his earlier trick by feinting the blow. This infuriates Gawain who is not impressed at the playful nature that the knight employs.
The knight’s third blow hits Gawain at the back of his neck. He later elaborates that the first two blows that he made are only representative of the exchanges at the court between Gawain and his wife which he rejected, and the last blow was symbolic of the failure of Gawain during the final encounter with the woman where he accepted the sash offered to him as a replacement of his faith he had in God earlier.
This action according to the knight can be pardoned and lauds Gawain for indeed being exemplary and one of the most trustworthy individuals he had come across in his life. Peters mentions that the knight commented, “Gawain was polished of that dilemma and cleansed” (124).
This meant that men, in spite of their liabilities and disparities can be pardoned. Gawain sees fault in himself and feels like he has lost the confidence of other people with him. However, he gets forgiveness from his peers. Obviously, even the knight sees Gawain’s heroism basing on what he comments about him. That even in the face of adversities and failures, Gawain can still seek pardon and remorse from peers.
Gawain’s character in the story is representative of the values of the society in which the texts were written. There was much regard and respect for God’s will and expectation of man to always respect the creator and his rules. Gawain cautiously and skillfully evades a woman’s wiles and tricks that could have led to adultery.
This tale has much to do with how a man should lead his life. We are faced with many tests and challenges on a daily basis, and to be pardoned of any of these is indeed normal. This tale will always be reminisced for its intense poetic nature in the way Gawain is handled, and can be utilized as a foundation on which people can judge their actions. Gawain is indeed a man and every one of them has pardonable faults. What is astounding however is that Gawain is a hero based on his actions that are mentioned above.
Peters, Scott. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Analysis. London: Prentice Hall, 2000. Print.
Williamson, Neilson. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Ontario: Middle English Series, 1999. Print.
Gawain’s Chivalric Behavior in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Essay
In the 14th century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the character of a knight Sir Gawain is a perfect example of the chivalric behavior of a Middle Age knight. The poem provides the reader with the insight into the time when knights were guided by ten rules of the Knights Code of Chivalry. Sir Gawain is one of the most famous and noble knights of the King’s Arthur’s Round Table.
The character of Sir Gawain demonstrates the chivalric code of the 14th century and the main values that were assigned to the knights. They were loyalty, valor, honesty and honor. Sir Gawain demonstrates these values in his thoughts and actions and he does the things that one of King Arthur’s knights is supposed to do. He is loyal to his King, obedient to the God’s law and experiences a court love with the Lady.
Sir Gawain is a perfect knight of the Round Table. He demonstrates his loyalty to the King when accepts the challenge of the Green Knight in order to protect the honor of the King. Thus, Gawain demonstrates the loyalty and his obligations to Arthur. In addition, the Green Knight’s challenge during the Arthur’s Christmas feast was the opportunity for Gawain to prove his courage.
Sir Gawain demonstrates his bravery replying to Green Knight’s words “Did I flinch, or flee from you when your blow felled me?” (Cooper 81) with the words, “Enough! I won’t flinch when you hack!” (Cooper 81). He also fights the dark knight and other beasts without a fear in his heart (which is one of the characteristics of a real knight) and proves the statement told about him at the end of the poem, “…Gawain, his name is too noble, he’s never afraid, nowhere…” (Cooper 81).
As all Arthur’s knights, Sir Gawain believed in God’s law and was governed by Christian rules. He believes that God will protect him, “So armored as he was, he heard a mass, Honored God humbly at the high altar” (Cooper 74).
However, his religious ideas contradict one of the “knight’s rules” of the court love. It becomes obvious when he meets Lady Burdilac. On the one hand, God’s law forbids any love affair with a married woman; on the other hand, love for a woman inspires a knight for a feat of arm. In spite of this, Sir Gawain overcomes the feel of temptation and resists Lady Burdilac’s seduction. It is another evidence of his chivalrous behavior.
Sir Gawain is described as a hero because he obeys the chivalric code which makes him a reputation of a heroic knight and people in the kingdom recognize him as an honorable knight of the Round Table. Sir Gawain passed successfully all the trials that he met on his way. In addition, the knight proved to be an honest man. He tells about the story with the Lady to King Arthur’s court. However, the court decides to transform Gawain’s girdle into honor and rank him as one of the most honorable Knights of the Round Table.
Thus, Sir Gawain is the best example of the chivalrous behavior. During his adventures he demonstrates the qualities that a King Arthur’s knight should possess. He fights against Green Knight and other beasts, he resists the temptation of the Lady Burdilac and he proves his loyalty to God and King.
Cooper, Helen. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Verse Rranslation. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998.
Gawain as a Hero Essay
A hero is regarded as any individual who possesses exceptional and outstanding qualities, especially in circumstances where others have contemplated failure or given up. In other words, a hero is somebody who does an outstanding action that many people would not dare to try. Gawain can be considered as a hero in this poem due to his unique displays of determination, self-control and humility throughout the plot of the poem (Thomas 7).
Gawain finds himself in tough situations that can jeopardize his life but his daring character keeps him on course to fulfill his promise of an immortal character. Like most heroes, he has his own weaknesses but the exemplary display and determination overshadows his shortcomings. He ends up being recognized in the whole Camelot city and reveals certain secrets that have long been unknown to many residents of the state.
As the immortal Green Knight appears at Arthur’s Christmas party, all the knights at the round table are frightened. The fear is further increased by the challenge the Green Knight pauses and whose ultimate prize is not known by anyone. None of the knights who are considered to be the toughest military figures dare to take the challenge, “and none among them all dare answer speedily” (Stone line 437).
Gawain, to everyone’s surprise steps up to take the challenge to save Arthur’s face. This definitely brings out the his courageous character. He is willing to take on a mighty giant regardless of the risk lying ahead when everybody else is unwilling: “I pray thee of thy grace, be this adventure mine!” (Alfred & James line 519).
Gawain also proves to be a hero when he chops off the head of the Green Knight in a single stroke. He puts his life on the scales with the hope that the Green Knight would die in this fight. Nevertheless, he is willing to keep the promise he made to the Green Knight and is ready to have whatever he did on the Green Knight be done on him at an agreed place, “That stroke for counter-stroke with me exchange” (Alfred & James line 582). This is a unique action that none of the military knights could perform, and this makes Gawain a true hero.
It is obvious that he is lucky enough to find Bertilak who offers him accommodation as he awaits the fateful encounter with the immortal knight. However, it is at the Bertilak’s castle that he finds a real test for his self-control. Bertilak’s wife freely offers herself to Gawain: “Do though in bed abide, and take thine ease I pray” (Alfred & James line 1026).
She does all she can when the husband is away to spend a night with Gawain as it is later revealed that it was a planned trap to test Gawain’s lustful power. Gawain is not aware of the plan but is wise enough to find his way out and by so doing he proves to be a hero again, as he is strong enough to avoid the temptations from this lady and not to betray his host who has been so generous to him.
He manages to coil around and only accepts a kiss daily from the lady. This again saves him of the trap ahead of him when Bertilak suggests that they offer to each other their daily spoils. While Bertilak brings game meat to Gawain daily, she is paid back with a kiss from Gawain since this is what he gets from the wife: “Whate’er in wood I win, the profit thine shall be, what cheer though shall achieve, halt give me” (Alfred & James line 1058).
One could wonder what Gawain would have paid back with should he had fallen for the sexual favors from Bertilak’s tempting wife. Here, he is regarded a hero by the society not only for managing his lust but also for taking the best option that saved him from falling into Bertilak’s trap.
The final encounter with the Green Knight is blood curdling and chilling. In fact, when Gawain is about to meet the knight, the guide accompanying him promises not to let out the secret if Gawain changes his mind and turns down the earlier promise made to the Knight of which Gawain declines: ”whereof, Gawain good, let this man alone” (Alfred & James line 1088).
Gawain is so terrified on the first occasion when the Knight tries to wield the ax until the Knight is forced to pull back and he demands for more courage from him. The hero Gawain does not even flinch on the second attempt when the knight tries a blow on him. In a surprising turn of events, it is Gawain who urges the knight to go through with it and fulfill the promise. It is interesting how Gawain has built up courage to face the giant Green Knight and the promise is fulfilled as earlier stated.
Thus, Gawain is considered a hero for his massive courage and determination to meet the Knight’s challenge. His journey to the meeting point was made amidst hunger, cold, and desperation. Any other person could have contemplated giving up but Gawain kept to his course. Above all, he remained optimistic that nothing bad would befall him and that he would live to retell the story in Camelot. It indeed takes a hero to do this.
Finally, Gawain meets his prize and takes back the good news. King Arthur is surprised by the revelations from Gawain’s journey and encounter. When Gawain sets out for the encounter he had nothing for his protection unlike the Knight who seemed to possess supernatural skills.
Hence, the chances of him surviving the ordeal and coming back to Camelot (Greenblatt 2006). The Green Knight had promised to pay back with equal intensity whatever the challenge involved and now that Gawain chopped off the Knight’s head, little was expected of him since he had no powers to return back the head like the Knight had done.
The whole Camelot is surprised when Gawain arrives back, and besides he brings forth news of the King’s kinsmen. No doubt, this is good news to the king and explains why all the military knights wear girdles around their wrists in honor of Gawain. Although they do not know the events that led Gawain to wear the girdle, they freely agree to wear the girdle to show respect and appreciation for him.
This treatment by the knights towards Gawain shows the heroic concern accorded to him for his daring spirit to go yonder, fight and bring forth secrets of the king’s lineage. He definitely qualifies to be a hero for his accomplishment (Greenblatt 2006).
Everyone is left wondering what Gawain’s next course of action will be. His ambition and determination leave everyone surprised. For instance, why should he put his life on the line to save King Arthur? He sets out to meet the Green Knight with little information about him and he is still determined to his course even when he knows that the end result might be the loss of his life.
It is evident that he is doing this for fame and building a reputation for himself. He then qualifies to be called a hero in the society when he opens up to the Knight and accepts to have not offered to the knight everything he got from Bertilak’s wife.
Gawain also confesses and repents of his sin and agrees to wear the girdle as a sign of his sins and begs the Knight to pardon him: “Thy plea I beseech” (Alfred & James line 2034). Furthermore, the Knight notes that Gawain values his life more than being honest implying that Gawain is also concerned about his reputation and the public opinion about him (Burrow 2005).
It is the public reputation that makes a hero and Gawain like any other individual with heroic ambitions pays much attention to the outward reputation and this is definitely the reason why Gawain repents of his sins and seeks forgiveness since he knows the Knight might reveal the same in Camelot.
In this case, he is regarded as a hero since he accepts his weakness and makes an effort to make a good name. Very few people can make such a decision like that taken by Gawain given that only the Green Knight and he knew of this trap to test his integrity.
Alfred, David & James Simpson. The Norton Anthology: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006. Print.
Burrow, James. A Reading of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. London, UK: Kegan Paul Ltd., 2005. Print.
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, London, UK: W.W. Norton and Co., 2006. Print.
Stone, Brian. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. London, UK: Penguin, 2004.Print.
Thomas, Gary. Your Research Project. New York, NY: Sage, Rudestam & Newton, 2009. Print.
The Knight without Blemish and Without Reproach: The Color of Virtue Essay
If there is something that the English Middle Age literature is definitely famous for, these are the numerous legends about knights, beautiful damsels and King Arthur; and, one must give these legends some credit for keeping its audience well in their seats for several centuries long.
However, it seems rather unfair that the legend of such a peculiar historical character as Sir Gawain has been in the shadow of more popular ones like Sir Galahad or King Arthur; just as compelling and, for that matter, more complex story of the knight who in one kind of sources is portrayed as the saving grace, and in another as a lady-killer is definitely worth taking a closer look at, which the story about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight will help in.
The work belongs to the genre of poetry. Although there is no actual rhyme in the given piece, the way it is structured clearly shows that this is a poem; for instance, the line “At the head sat Bishop Baldwin as Arthur’s guest of honor” (Armitage 27) breaks, and the sentence continues on the next line; the given manner of writing is typical for poetry with obvious elements of a narrative and dramatic style.
Indeed, too short to be epic, it still has the tension of drama (the line “exchanging views” (27), for instance, bears a lot of hidden innuendoes) and the pace of a third-person narration.
Like any other poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has its evident prosodic elements; however, they are quite different from what is defined as poetry today.
For instance, as it has been already mentioned, there is no rhyme (“himself –views – Guinevre” (Armitage 27)), nor is there any specific meter: “And still he stands there just being himself” (Armitage 27) does not fit into any of the existing meters.
However, written in the era of the “Alliterative Revival”, it does have a lot of alliterations in every line. Indeed, taking any line, one can see the repetitive pattern: in “and at Arthur’s other side sits Agrawain the Hard Hand”, there are three clear-cut instances of alliteration.
First of all, the sound “a” is stressed: “and at Arthur’s”, “Agrawain” (Armitage 27); then, “s” is emphasized: “side sits”; finally, the harsh “h” sound echoes in the end of the line: “Hard Hand”. Another instance of alliteration, “Bishop Baldwin” makes it clear that this stylistic device was intended (Armitage 27).
The poem also has several peculiar symbols to consider. In the given excerpt, Sir Gawain is the symbol himself – the symbol of the whole idea of knighthood, with its codes of honor, luxurious feasts and specific hierarchy.
Mentioning the way the guests are seated, the author stresses the latter, showing the specific relationships between the characters.
For instance, the fact that Guinevere sits next to Gawain: “Good Sir Gawain is seated by Guinevere” (37) points at the fact that there might be tension between these characters and that they are closely related to each other.
However, mentioning all these characters, the real author of the story stays in the shadow, which makes the narration a true legend, the ancient myth, the veracity of which cannot be checked, and that adds certain charm to the poem.
Although the author mentions the names of actual people who did exist, according to the historical record, it is rather hard to pin the actual year when the events took place. Known as the XIV-century tale, this piece is practically timeless.
Nevertheless, the elements of the given poem can relate to a number of other literature works of the given time period, mostly owing to the legendary names mentioned in the excerpt, such as King Arthur, Guinevere, and the rest of the characters.
In addition, the whole idea of knighthood which the extract is shot through relates well to most of the literature works of the given time slot. Indeed, the idea of describing the life of “the nobles” (Armitage 27) is quite common for the given epoch.
Despite being a translation of the original Middle English poem, the given piece is still very impressive. It helps create the atmosphere of the famous Camelot and imagine the people who lived there in the most graphic way.
Telling not only about the history of England, but also emphasizing the significance of fraternity and togetherness which ruled in the XIV century Camelot, the given poem truly is a work of art.
Therefore, it is clear that the story of Sir Gawain is typical for its time period and reflects the standard set of values, yet it manages to convey the traditional messages about purity in a specific way.
It is quite peculiar that the poem is not preachy in sharing the moral values of the Middle Ages with the readers; in addition, there is little of the self-appraise element in the poem, which is also quite unusual for the time period of the Knights of the Round Table.
With its story which is easy to track and the pace which is easy to follow, the poem makes a perfect specimen of the English Middle Age literature.
Armitage, Simon. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. New York City, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007. Print.
Use of Symbols in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” Research Paper
“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is an ancient poem that tells the story of the exchanges between Sir Gawain and a mysterious Green Knight. Sir Gawain is a blood relative of King Arthur and a brave knight while the Green Knight is a disguised character who sets out to test his opponent. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” was authored in an unknown date in the late 1300s by an anonymous author.
The unknown author who wrote “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is also associated with three other poems that were found in the manuscript that contained this poem. The setting of the poem has always been believed to be Northern England. The author of this poem (referred to as the Gawain-poet in this paper) uses several stylistic devices that make this poem an outstanding work of literature.
The poet uses several symbols in the poem to the benefit of the readers. The symbols that are used in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” help the Gawain-poet to instill deeper meanings to this literary piece. This essay explores the symbols that are used in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” and how they contribute towards the revelation of the poem’s meaning.
The poem begins by narrating the events that are going on in King Arthur’s court during the new-year festivities. A mysterious character, the Green Knight, arrives at the King’s court albeit uninvited.
The Green Knight proceeds to offer a challenge to all the feast attendees; any brave knight who is present at the court will have the opportunity to strike the Green Knight with an axe but in one year and a day’s time the volunteering knight would have to withstand a similar challenge. King Arthur steps forward and accepts the challenge but Gawain intercepts the King and takes up the challenge himself.
Gawain carries on the challenge by striking the Green Knight’s head with an axe and manages to severe it. However, in a strange turn of events the Green Knight bends down and picks up his severed head.
The Knight then reminds Gawain to honor his end of the deal by showing up to the Green Chapel to receive a similar challenge. Approximately a year after this encounter, Sir Gawain leaves for the Green Chapel to honor his end of the deal. The Gawain-poet details the adventures of Gawain throughout his journey in the rest of the poem.
One of the most prominent symbols that are used in this poem is Gawain’s shield and pentangle. The shield is a tool of protection especially for people who engage in armed combat. The pentangle that is contained in the shield is specific to the wearer (Sir Gawain). Therefore, the pentangle is a symbol of the virtues and values that are held by Gawain in the course of his Knighthood.
According to the poem, the pentangle is a five-pointed-star that traces its origins to King Solomon. In most ancient texts, the pentangle is often a symbol of truth or a magical seal (Green 123). The interlocking nature of the pentangle symbolizes the complexity of human virtues.
In the context of the “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, the pentangle brings together the influence of “the five virtues, the five wounds of Christ, the five senses, the five joys of Mary the mother of Jesus, and the five fingers (Besserman 220). Consequently, it is apparent that as a knight, Gawain also seeks his moral, physical, and spiritual strengths from other places.
Gawain’s strengths and virtues are interwoven like the triangles in the pentangle. The endless pattern that is found in the pentangle echoes the perfection of Gawain character. For instance, when all the other knights are afraid of the Green Knight’s challenge he voluntary rescues the King from possible failure or humiliation. Solomon is said to have used the pentangle as a personal magic seal.
However, later on Solomon became a symbol of wisdom, kingship, and might. The similarities between Solomon and Gawain’s use of the pentangle are that both personalities had flaws. At the end, Solomon turned away from God and eventually lost his kingdom while Gawain refused to honor a promise he made to his host. The Gawain-poet emphasizes the significance of the connection between Gawain and the pentangle.
According to Professor Burrow, several lines in the poem are dedicated to establishing this connection. For example, the poet mentions that the pentangle is a symbol of fidelity or ‘trawpe’ that associates Gawain with the traits of faithfulness and fidelity.
The poet then concludes that the object is befitting for the main character (Morgan 779). The symbol of the pentangle helps in developing the themes of bravery and selflessness. These two concepts are presented from a Christian point of view and hence the pentangle is a symbol of fidelity and faithfulness.
Color green is a symbol with several possible interpretations. The main antagonist in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is the Green Knight. The Green Knight is presented by the poet as a mystical character with striking features. This character is noted to be green in color. In addition, the Green Knight has a green horse, green skin, a green beard, green clothes, a green-gold axe, and green hair.
The portrayal of a completely green knight highlights the peculiar nature of Green Knight’s presence. In addition, the Green Knight’s color uniformity suggests that he is a uniform character. Several analysts have debated about the symbolism of color green as used by the Gawain-poet. Some scholars have proposed that the Green Knight is a symbol of the god of vegetation and nature.
According to Basserman, the green color of the Green Knight symbolizes the “dying and rising vegetation god” (220). Other medieval texts have also made references to green men. In some instances, a green man symbolizes a ‘wild man’ while at other times he symbolizes the ‘evil man’.
The Gawain-poet combines both symbols because at the beginning of the poem the Green Knight is portrayed as a character with evil motives. However, by the end of the poem the Green Knight is portrayed as a straightforward character. Most scholars are in agreement over the fact that in traditional-English folklore the color green mostly symbolizes fertility and rebirth.
In the poem, green is presented as a pure color except for the green-gold girdle. The mixture of green and gold is a symbol of change in the form of passing youth. The green color used in the girdle first serves a symbol of immortality.
When Gawain is humiliated by his behaviors, he adorns the green girdle as a symbol of cowardice and shame. However, the Camelot knights finally adorn the green girdle as a symbol of honor. All these changes elaborate the ambiguity of color green as a literary symbol.
The poem also employs the symbol of an axe that is held by the Green Knight during his entry to the king’s court. During the medieval times, the axe was a symbol of execution. Consequently, when the Green Knight is holding an axe he symbolizes the executioner. When the Green Knight enters the palace, he is holding an axe but he offers to be executed first.
This makes the Green Knight a strange and an unusual executioner. When the Green Knight picks up his severed head and rides away, it becomes clear that he is an extraordinary executioner, one who cannot die. In medieval texts, death is known as the only executioner who cannot die (Besserman 220).
Apart from the axe, the Green Knight is also holding a holly bob. In medieval England hollies were constantly associated with death and ghosts who would often come back to haunt their former residences.
Some medieval sources claim that it was “a well known fact within the English tradition that a holly bob carried into a house before Christmas foretells death in the coming year” (Krappe 214). Therefore, when the Green Knight enters holding an axe and a holly bob, his symbol as the executioner who foretells death is complete.
The green girdle is another symbol that has ambiguous characteristics. The symbol of the girdle is like the one of color green and it keeps changing throughout the poem. At first, the Gawain is given the girdle by his host’s wife with the promise that it has magical elements and it will make him immortal.
However, when the identity of the Green Knight is revealed to be that of Gawain’s former host, the girdle instantly symbolizes cowardice and shame. Gawain resolves to wear the girdle for the rest of his life as a symbol of his shameful and cowardly act. However, when Gawain arrives at Camelot he finds all the other knights wearing the girdle as a symbol of triumph and honor (Tolkien 121).
Given the poem’s religious undertones, the Gawain-poet might have used the symbol of the girdle as a parallel to the crown of thorns that was worn by Jesus during crucifixion.
Jesus’ crown of thorns was a symbol of both humiliation and triumph. Furthermore, the crown of thorns signified the victory of Jesus after he had gone through turbulent times. Gawain goes through tough experiences that are similar to the ones that Jesus went through and in the end he receives a symbolic girdle.
A thorough analysis of the symbols that are used in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” reveals that this poem contains several hidden meanings. These symbols also reveal that the Gawain-poet employs a strong religious theme. The poem also lacks a sole and definite meaning.
Instead, the Gawain-poet chooses to indulge the readers in dual-meaning symbols. Symbols are also used to portray the weaknesses of mankind in the face of tribulations. Most of the symbols in this story dwell on the subjects of death, human triumph, defeat, temptation, and honor.
The dual meanings in some of the symbols that are used in this poem suggest that the poet is not ready to pass judgments. A thorough analysis of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” indicates that symbols are prevalent in the poem and the Gawain-poet intended to use these symbols as tools of hidden meanings.
Besserman, Lawrence. “The idea of the Green Knight.” ELH 53.2 (1986): 219-239. Print.
Green, Hamilton. “Gawain’s Shield and the Quest for Perfection.” ELH 29.2 (2002): 121- 139. Print.
Krappe, Alexander Haggerty. “Who Was the Green Knight?.” Speculum 13.2 (1938): 206-215. Print.
Morgan, Gerald. “The significance of the pentangle symbolism in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Modern (The) Language Review London 74.4 (1979): 770-790. Print.
Tolkien, John and Norman Davis. Sir Gawain and the green knight, London, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 1967. Print.
This Medieval Era Poem
This medieval era poem is set with a theme of not just bravery or heroism, but one of honesty and loyalty even greed and guilt as well. The story starts with our protagonist celebrating. Then along comes the green knight who challenges any one man to a blow.
But you can already detect a sense of trickery because, the Green Knight says he will return one year and one day later to give a blow to his opponent. In which sir gawins brother stands and demands they do the challenge. This is where the sense of bravery comes in to play. So the two duel and sir gawain’s brother takes the head of the green knight and the green knight lives. So very obviously the knight demands that he follow his word and be there one year and one day later.
His brother did not uphold so he demands that sir gawain take his place. After the duel sir gawain spends the time traveling and eventually finds himself in the castle of Lord and Lady Bertilak. A sense of lust is able to be detected because of the situation of the lord’s wife trying to seduce sir gawain. She tries not only once but three times and her advances fail. Just after this he is met with hid feeling of greed and guilt. She gifts him a girdle that is sworn to keep him safe. He wants to remain safe and so he take it out of greed, but he also has guilt because it goes against his code of chivalry. Sir gawain returns the the green chapel and the Green Knight is waiting for him while sharpening a blade. Sir gawain then riddled with guilt offers a trade.
He wanted to trade all of his riches for his life except the girdle that he kept a secret and it fails. The green knight does three blows to Sir Gawain and much like the Green Knight he lives. This is another good sense of bravery and honesty, Sir Gawain stayed true to his word and the outcome was positive. The Green Knight tells sir gawain his name he said his name is Bertilak and tells him that he is the king of the castle where Gawain was at. But because Gawain was not truthful about all of his riches on the third blow Bertilak drew blood. But Gawain has proven himself a true knight.
A sense of honor is detected because he actually proved himself. Bertilak later explains that the old woman at the castle is really Morgan le Faye, Sir Gawain’s aunt and also a witch. She sent the Green Knight on his his mission in the beginning and used her magic to change the Green Knight’s appearance. Excited to be alive but extremely guilty about his failure to tell the truth, Sir Gawain wears the girdle on his arm as a reminder of his own failure. He returns to Arthur’s court where all the knights join Sir Gawain, wearing girdles on their arms to show their support. This is where true chivalry is shown in the story.
Lengthy Poem Surrounding
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a lengthy poem surrounding well-known King Arthur of Camelot and one of his most noble and loyal knights, Sir Gawain. Throughout the story, the noble knight is traveling to battle the antagonist of the poem, the Green Knight, a being that challenged Sir Gawain to track down and decapitate him. During his journey, he is tempted three times by Lady Bertilak, the wife of the Lord who is granting Sir Gawain shelter in his time of need, and his knightly honor is challenged by this.
Despite being given plenty of opportunities to betray King Arthur and pick the path that would label him as morally corrupt, he remained noble and true to his vows. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written in the late fourteenth century. During this trying time period, the Hundred Years’ War was raging and the Black Plague was finally beginning to come to a halt. This poem covers knightly chivalry and morals. Throughout the story, these two themes are challenged through the temptation of the main character, Sir Gawain. During the late fourteenth century, the Hundred Year’s War was still going on with full force and it didn’t look like there would be a cease-fire any time soon. In addition, the infamous Black Plague was tearing through Europe and destroying morale in society.
However, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight does not spend time on the dirty aspects of society that were extremely hard to swallow during the time period. The author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight decided, instead, to give the people of Britain an escape through literature, has not mentioned the fact that the British society was crumbling. The time period had an incredibly heavy influence on the story because without the absolutely crushing events going on at the time, the motivation behind the author providing an excellent story to give the downtrodden people an escape and a person to look up to in times of extreme grief, such as Sir Gawain, the poem never would have been written in the first place. At the very beginning of the poem, Sir Gawain is at a grand Christmas feast at King Arthur’s court. The author uses imagery to depict how vibrant and red the feast is, providing a stark contrast when the Green Knight walks in and disrupts the monochromatic feast.
The unknown author also uses choice words and phrases to describe the feast as jubilant and suddenly turns to an air of unease when the Green Knight is introduced. Not only did the author use imagery to set the tone of the story, but the author also used plenty of alliteration to emphasize a point. An example of the author’s use of alliteration is And all his vesture verayly watz clene verdure, / Bothe the barres of his belt and other blythe stones. (Sir Gawain, lines 161-162). Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a poem filled with symbolism, the main three symbols in the story are the pentangle, the color green, and the green girdle. First, the pentangle is made to be a representation of five virtues: generosity, fellowship, chastity, courtesy, and charity.
The reader is shown what the pentangle is meant to symbolize through these lines: It is a symbol that Solomon designed long ago / As an emblem of fidelity, and justly so; / /Therefore it suits this knight and his shining arms, / For always faithful in five ways, and five times in each case, / Gawain was reputed as virtuous, (Sir Gawain, lines 625-626; 631-633). Next is the color green, a symbol that remains constant throughout the entire story. While the unknown author does not bluntly state the meaning behind the color green, there are plenty of clues within the poem to suggest its hidden meaning. The Green Knight himself is a solid green color and he carries a massive ax in one hand and a holly branch in the other. Both of these items are directly correlated to nature. The holly branch is a piece of nature itself and the ax as a tool to cut down trees.
Another clue is the chapel where the Green Knight is waiting for Sir Gawain. The chapel itself is described as one of the most wild, natural places in the poem (Symbolism: The Color Green, pg 1) thus leading the reader to believe that the color green is meant to represent nature itself. The third and final major use of symbolism in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the green girdle Sir Gawain is given by Lady Bertilak. Unlike the symbol of the color green, the green girdle is a symbol that is much easier to understand and point out to the average reader. The girdle also is a symbol for many different things, the meaning behind it simply depends on the situation it is used in. When Lady Bertilak gives the green girdle to Sir Gawain, it is intended as a lover’s keepsake and something to remember her by. She also states that the girdle has the ability to make the person wearing it indestructible. When she mentions that, the green girdle’s meaning shifts from a lover’s token to survival.
Then, when Sir Gawain fails to give the girdle to King Bertilak as a part of their agreement, the meaning moves towards desperate desire to survive at the expense of his code of honor (Symbolism: The Green Girdle, pg 1). The story of Sir Gawain was a genuinely enjoyable experience, some older literature can be a difficult read but this poem is an exception. The extraordinary imagery used throughout the tale completely captured me and allowed me to get enthralled in the plot. It was incredibly frustrating when Sir Gawain was constantly being tempted by Lady Bertilak. This was aggravating because, as a reader, I wanted Sir Gawain to succeed in his journey and Lady Bertilak left a bad taste in my mouth because she could get in the way of his ultimate goal. Overall, once Sir Gawain came to the end of his journey and it was revealed that the Green Knight had played somewhat of a trick on him by being the orchestrator of the state of affairs with Lord and Lady Bertilak, I was absolutely shocked.
However, I must admit that in hindsight, I, and any other reader, should have taken into consideration that the girdle presented by Lady Bertilak was green, a symbol for the Green Knight himself. The story as a whole was truly a fantastic and the unknown author did an amazing job at keeping the readers on the edge of their seats. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight begins with the grand Christmas feast, which immediately establishes a vibrant aesthetic. The hall is decorated to be nearly completely red, tying in with traditional Christmas colors of course. However, the Christmas feast is not the only example of a beautiful aesthetic. The author describes Sir Gawain’s armor in great detail. Then, the author goes on to talk about the pentangle on Sir Gawain’s shield and how it is supposed to represent five holy virtues. Another form of imagery the author uses is the changing of seasons throughout the text. The seasons drive the plot and Sir Gawain’s journey and are mostly described by the changing of the leaves around Sir Gawain. A great example of this is when Sir Gawain is searching for the Green Knight. During this time, it the middle of the winter. At this point, Sir Gawain is getting worn, then he notices a green field. This is where the author uses imagery to bring in the supernatural force of the story. Otherwise, it would not make any sense whatsoever that there would be a lush green field in the middle of winter.
The sudden appearance of a summery scene is to entice Sir Gawain in a sense, it is trying to make the reader and Sir Gawain feel like the castle is a safe haven. This ends up being a test by the supernatural force, the Green Knight, further proving that the appearance of seasons throughout the story drive Sir Gawain’s journey. Next, the author uses language to bring life and beauty into the piece of writing. The intentions behind why the author chose to write this story are unknown, but there are key factors in the time period and the poem itself that detail how it could have been so impactful at the time it was written.
In the late fourteenth century, a war was raging and the black death was claiming the lives of an unimaginable number of people. Due to these two major facts about the time period, the people needed something to escape to. Reading about war and death was unappealing to them because they were living in that hell every single day. It can be assumed that the author chose to write a story surrounding chivalry and true honor because that’s what the people of the time needed to see most of all. Sir Gawain showed the public that it is desirable to be so honorable and noble, something that the people didn’t see much of at the time.
However, the author also showed a somewhat softer side to Sir Gawain that could relate with the everyday person, he feared death just as much as any normal human being would fear such a fate. This showed the readers that Sir Gawain was human and even though he was the poster child for being noble and chivalrous, he still feared the inevitable. Not only did Sir Gawain and the Green Knight have an impact on readers at the time, but its religious themes have held true. Around the world, Christianity is practiced. The author at the time most definitely had different values and practiced religion in a vastly different way but people now are still majorly impacted by Christianity. This poem was simply a contribution to push Christianity forward as an attempt to express the author’s own values and morals but as an attempt to keep Christianity at the forefront of society. The author most certainly accomplished that feat, and it is evident through the fact that millions of people continue to practice Christianity and uphold the same values to this day.
The Value of Hunting in Sir Gawain
- 1 The Value of Hunting in Sir Gawain
- 1.1 Works Cited
The Value of Hunting in Sir Gawain
Readers of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight develop a first impression of Sir Gawain as an almost unhuman like perfection of a Knight. Sir Gawain bravely takes on the challenge of the Beheading Game, in order to protect his King, and announces why he should be the one to accept this challenge and modestly puts that he has the most to prove. Sir Gawain’s modesty and chivalry displays Sir Gawain’s perceived perfection, and at the beginning of the story, it seems that Sir Gawain is a character of a different kind of world.
Lady Bertilak is a pawn in a game designed to test King Arthur’s court, and as she approaches Sir Gawain, the reader discovers a parallel between Lord Bertilak’s hunt and Lady Bertilak’s quest for discovering Sir Gawain’s humanity through the use of the deer, the boar, and the fox.
Lady Bertilak is an accurate symbol for the daily temptations that Sir Gawain faces and that many face in the real world. Sir Gawain had sworn his loyalty to Lord Bertilak, and Lady Bertilak’s appearance, beautiful and well dressed, provides the perfect temptation to test Sir Gawain’s faithfulness and chivalry (Goldhurst, p. 63). Lady Bertilak has a major role in the story of Sir Gawain, and is in large part, responsible for his breaking of the Chivalric Code. She is the wife to Lord Bertilak and is a key part in the deal that Sir Gawain and Lord Bertilak made to split their winnings.
Lord Bertilak was to hunt and then give whatever he obtained to Sir Gawain, and in return, Sir Gawain was to stay in the castle and give Lord Bertilak whatever he won. This game presented the perfect opportunity to truly test Sir Gawain’s manners. As Lord Bertilak left to go hunt, Lady Bertilak began a hunt for Sir Gawain. Every hunt was written with great detail, and drew a parallel to the approach Lady Bertilak took in tempting Sir Gawain. Lady Bertilak’s first two attempts at temptation failed and seemed to confirm the reader’s predisposition about Sir Gawain’s perfection, but with her third attempt, she presented him with protection of the green girdle, which he could not refuse.
Lady Bertilak’s first attempt to tempt Sir Gawain was paired with the story of the deer hunt. The pairing of the deer hunt and the pursuit of Sir Gawain is valuable to the story in proving to the reader Sir Gawain’s trustworthiness. Sir Gawain was unexpecting and ignorant of the events that were about to happen, much like the deer was when Lord Bertilak killed it. Sir Gawain is most similar to the deer in the manner in the sense that he is noble game (Savage, p. 5).
The stag, or deer, is noble because it is cautious and can distinguish between right and wrong, as it’s only weapons are a distinct hearing, a sharp mind, and quick legs to escape danger (Savage, p. 9). In this moment, Sir Gawain behaves in a way that is both careful and quick minded, developing the first similarity between the deer’s behavior and the knight’s. The dogs drove the deer into awaiting archers, trapping them with the only escape being death. As Lady Bertilak approached Sir Gawain, she was reasonably noisy, and told him, You’re tricked and trapped! (Anonymous, p. 163). This line shows that, like the deer, Sir Gawain’s innocent and timid approach caused him to be trapped. Sir Gawain remained shy and timid during Lady Bertilak’s first attempt to pursue him, much like the deer was timid and attempted to escape the hunter’s approach (Pedrosa, p. 72). Sir Gawain pretends to stay asleep and stays put as long as possible to avoid this confrontation and does not move until he was forced, just like the deer. Lady Bertilak, the metaphorical hunter, was the most aggressive during the first approach because of Sir Gawain’s reserved and scared manner (Pedrosa, p. 73).
Lord Bertilak, the actual hunter in the story, was also aggressive during his first hunt by driving the deer out. The importance of the two hunter’s aggressiveness was to emphasize the innocence and shyness that the deer and Sir Gawain display. Sir Gawain stayed loyal to his word, even though he was being aggressively approached. The comparison between Sir Gawain and the game gives the reader a further idea into Sir Gawain’s value by displaying that, like the deer Sir Gawain, was noble game worthy of the King (Savage, p. 5). Sir Gawain’s innocence and his actions reaffirmed the reader’s predetermined belief that Sir Gawain was, in fact, perfect, as he did not break his honor. As the story progressed, Sir Gawain gained confidence, which makes the boar a perfect embodiment of Sir Gawain’s reconfirmed strength.
Sir Gawain and Lord Bertilak agreed to renew their deal, but this time, the hunt was not for an innocent deer, but for a ferocious boar which was well aware of its surroundings. Upon Lady Bertilak’s second approach, Sir Gawain, like the boar, responded aggressively knowing the danger he was in. As Lady Bertilak entered Sir Gawain’s chambers for the second time, Sir Gawain awoke quickly and this time he, Makes her welcome at once (Anonymous, p. 167).
It is clear from this action Sir Gawain has changed his tactics when it comes to Lady Bertilak. While in the original scene he stayed put until driven out, this time he defended himself before he was trapped into danger. He does not act ignorant upon the second approach by Lady Bertilak, and in fact shows her that he is very aware of her presence (Savage, p. 11). Likewise, the boar does not take shelter or hide from the men, but pursues them. Another obvious similarity between Sir Gawain and this ferocious pig is their history. Sir Gawain has refused Lady Bertilak in the past, making him a fearsome and difficult opponent. The author goes into a brief history of the boar, explaining that the boar has wreaked havoc on the men and their hounds (Anonymous, p. 168). The necessity in examining the past of the boar and Sir Gawain is that they both proved to be difficult opponents. While the past encounter with Sir Gawain was not aggressive, Sir Gawain had come out victorious, as did the boar in the previous encounters Lord Bertilak had with him. The boar takes action when his life is threatened and when Lord Bertilak trespasses and gets too close; he does not take kindly.
The boar is willing to defend himself by fighting his way out rather than staying put. The benefit that the boar carries over the stag is its tusks and muscular body. Therefore, the boar is well equipped for trespassers (Savage, p. 13). Similarly, Sir Gawain does not stay grounded when he is encroached upon; he rises and greets the trespasser. The author shows that Sir Gawain is also well equipped with confidence and knowledge of the events that are about to transpire. The necessity in the pairing of Sir Gawain and the boar is simply to highlight Sir Gawain’s newfound confidence. As seen with the pairing of the deer, Sir Gawain was timid originally and attempted to avoid confrontation. When he was paired with the boar, the reader can see that the boar’s aggressive behavior and confidence in its abilities, reflects Sir Gawain’s own.
The fox’s reputation of being a sneaky creature makes it the perfect candidate to symbolize Sir Gawain’s nearly fatal fall into the open arms of temptation. The passage with the fox becomes the moment where the reader finally discovers that Sir Gawain is not perfect, and that his humanity is actually the reason he allowed himself to be tempted. The first thing to note is that Sir Gawain rejected the original temptation, which was lust. In the final scene, Lady Bertilak tempted Sir Gawain with survival, rather than lust, a completely new form of temptation (Waldron, pp. 17). Sir Gawain’s innocent and aggressive approaches to temptation proved successful; however, the moment that he was tempted with survival, he failed. We see his humanity through his urge to survive (Waldron, p. 17). The fox responds to Lord Bertilak’s hunts in the same way that Sir Gawain does to Lady Bertilak’s final temptation approach (Savage, p. 6). Lord Bertilak was close enough to the fox that he was able to swing at it with a sword, He bares his bright sword and swishes at the beast, which shirks from its sharpness (Anonymous, p. 176).
The importance of this line is the visual imagery and symbolism that this line bears. This line describes Lord Bertilak’s swift motion toward the fox, and the fox’s quick reflexes to escape the blade. The symbolism develops when the fox’s maneuver forced him into the teeth of the hounds (Savage, p. 6). The temptation of the ring did not persuade Sir Gawain, however, the protective girdle changed the noble Knight into a sinner. The irony and comparison truly develops when the reason behind Sir Gawain’s sin is analyzed: He wanted to save his life. Sir Gawain took the green girdle to dodge the blade of the Green Knight’s axe. Similarly, the fox dodged Lord Bertilak’s sword in an attempt to save his life, however, both Sir Gawain and the fox ended up causing themselves more harm after their attempt to swerve danger (Savage, p. 6). Both of these movements developed out of pure adrenaline and the natural instinct to take any opportunity to avoid harm (Savage, p. 6). Lady Bertilak was able to provide enough temptation to appeal to Sir Gawain’s natural instinct. These animals are creations of nature. Therefore by pairing every story and action that Sir Gawain takes with an animal which represent that action, the author reveals a new point about nature.
The author also displays the reactions to the animals that Lord Bertilak had slain, in order to better show the value of the animals. After the deer hunt and boar hunt there was a large celebration, while after the fox hunt there was no celebration, just the exchanging of the pelt (Pedrosa, p. 72). The reactions to the killings correlate perfectly with the reaction to Sir Gawain. The deer and the boar were praised for their contents and were celebrated for what they were giving to the members of the castle. However, the fox was greeted with disappointment for it was not worth much, which can run parallel to the disappointing reaction that the reader’s have to Sir Gawain’s actions (Pedrosa, p. 72). Following the deer hunt, Lord Bertilak called all the servants and the women into the dining hall so, The venison be revealed in full view (Anonymous, p. 166). Lord Bertilak praised the size of the kill and was so proud of what it was worth that he called his entire staff to view it. This shows how large-scale their celebration truly was and emphasizes how valuable the deer really was to them. This correlates with the reader’s reaction to Sir Gawain’s faithfulness.
Likewise, when he kills the boar, he announces it in front of everyone, and tells his story about defeating the beast. The reader, once again, shares this joyful reaction to Sir Gawain’s loyalty. Finally, the reaction to the fox was not joyful at all. In fact, it was a reaction of disappointment. When referencing his return gift of the fox pelt for Sir Gawain’s passionate kisses, Lord Bertilak announces, Mine’s a miserable match (Anonymous, p. 177). This announcement displays just how much disappointment Lord Bertilak had in the fox pelt. When Sir Gawain took the green girdle, the readers felt the same sense of emotion in his actions. The inclusion of the detailed reactions of the characters in the story to the animals, truly displays the natural reactions that viewers of this story have.
Lord Bertilak’s detailed hunts in the story, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, are matched with the detailed approaches of Lady Bertilak upon Sir Gawain. These stories help to develop the realization that Sir Gawain is in fact, human. The author does this through placing Lord Bertilak’s hunts and Lady Bertilak’s hunts parallel to each other. The author also uses the character’s reactions to the killings to express similar reactions that readers have to Sir Gawain’s actions. The author portrays these specific elements by using the hunting scenes of the deer, boar, and fox, and the reactions to them.
Anonymous.Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The Norton Anthology: English Literature: The Major Authors, Edited by Stephen Greenblatt, Norton, 2013, pp. 135-188, 2 vols.
Goldhurst, William. The Green and the Gold: The Major Theme of Gawain and The Green Knight. College English, vol.20, No. 2, Nov. 1958, pp.61-65. JSTOR www.jstor.org/stable/372161 Accessed, Nov. 12th, 2018.
Pedrosa, Antonio Vicente Casas. Symbolic Numbers and Their Functions In Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. Universidad De Las Palmas De Gran Canaria, 2006, acceda.ulpgc.es:8443/xmlui/bitstream/10553/6418/1/0234349_00012_0004.pdf. Accessed Nov. 12th, 2018.
Savage, Henry L. The Significance of the Hunting Scenes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, vol. 27, no. 1, 1928, pp. 115. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27703094.
Waldron, R. A. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Google Books, Northwestern University Press, 1970,
https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=99-SAHCAMmoC&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=sir+gawain+and+the+green+knight&ots=prp2sWNSM9&sig=loGGJj50zm3ZMaqLt1Mpi8AWD8Q#v=onepage&q=sir%20gawain%20and%20the%20green%20knight&f=false. Accessed, Oct. 8th, 2018
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The epic poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written by an adept, anonymous author in the mid to late fourteenth century, is a classic amongst the literary world. It is a story that resides in a medieval setting and procures the classic subject matter of good and evil. The poem contains several themes and motifs, such as man and the natural world, principles, rule and order, tradition and customs, as well as respect and reputation, which are key to making the epic poem a literary work of art.
In this essay, the topics of the origins of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight will be discussed, along with how the themes were utilized throughout the story.
The author of the epic poem remains unknown, but translator, Burton Raffel, believes that he or she was either an aristocrat or someone who was intimately familiar with the way of aristocracy and knew about the French and French customs. The poem was originally written in Middle English, which was prevalent between 1150 and 1475 a.d., it is estimated from evidence of events and lifestyle that the poem was composed between 1350 and 1400 a.d. Many literary intellects believes that the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight composed a poem that truly captured a clear vision of the realm of knights for modern generations.
As discussed in the introduction to this essay, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is comprised of different themes and motifs. Each of these themes play a vital role in the complexity of the epic poem. For example, good vs. evil is displayed very early within the poem when the Green Knight first appears (Part 1, lines 237- 249) because once he appears upon the scene the atmosphere drastically changes, moving from one of exultation to one of apprehension.
Another example of the themes used within the poem is when the theme of traditions and customs is made palpable at the end of the poem. “The King comforted his nephew and claimed that henceforth all knights and ladies of the Round Table would wear silk girdles of green for the sake of Sir Gawain. So it was declared by Arthur, and so it was done forevermore.” (Part IV. Lines 2475- 2476). This is an example of traditions and customs because wearing the silk girdles is now something that the people of the Round Table would do in order to honor Sir Gawain for centuries to come.
In final thought, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a classic literary work that is credited with possessing several forms of lessons, motifs, and themes that could still be learned from today just as it was 500 years ago.