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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – The Believable Character of Sir Gawain

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – The Believable Character of Sir Gawain

One of the most important components of any literary work is the central character. To make literature truly great is to have a character whose personality is believable. When the character is believable, the reader is more likely to relate to the character and be drawn into the work. There are three basic ways a character’s personality can be revealed to a reader: what the character thinks about him or herself, how others think and feel about the character, and the character’s actions help define his or her personality. When these three methods are in sync, then the character becomes a real person. However it is very easy for a writer to make the character become too perfect and the illusion of reality is lost. The way an author can work around this is to allow certain aspects to become out of sync, such as a flaw in personality which can only be brought to light when the character is pushed to his limits. This is how the personality of Sir Gawain, the central character of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, is depicted.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a great medieval poem written by an unknown author who is believed to be a contemporary of Chaucer. The poem takes place in Arthurian England. Sir Gawain begins his rise to greatness when he takes a challenge given by an ominous figure known as the Green Knight. Throughout the poem, Gawain is tested and is found to be truthful until he is tested in the gift-giving game in which his flaw is revealed to the reader. The events in the poem make the character of Sir Gawain very believable and is part of the reason why Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the greatest literary works of Middle English.

In the first segment of the poem, we are introduced to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It is Christmas time in King Arthur’s court when the Green Knight enters the dining hall. He is very large and completely green. He challenges the court to a beheading game in which one of the knights must cut off the Green Knight’s head and then in 12 months and a day find the Green Knight and allow the Green Knight to chop his head off.

Aeneas, the Anti-hero of Aeneid

Aeneas, the Anti-hero of Aeneid

Many people seem to be under the impression that the Aeneid is a celebration of Roman glory, led by the hero of fate Aeneas. I find these preconceived ideas hard to reconcile with my actual reading of the text. For starters, I have a hard time viewing Aeneas as a hero at all. Almost any other main characters in the epic, from Dido to Camilla to Turnus, have more heroic qualities than Aeneas. This is especially noteworthy because many of these characters are his enemies. In addition, Aeneas is presented as a man with no free will. He is not so much bound to duty as he is shielded by it. It offers a convenient way for hum to dodge crucial moral questions. Although this doesn’t necessarily make him a bad person, it certainly makes him a weak one. Of course some will argue that it takes greater moral conviction to ignore personal temptation and act for the good of the people. These analysts are dodging the issue just like Aeneas does. The fact is that Aeneas doesn’t just sacrifice his own personal happiness for the common good; he also sacrifices the past of the Trojan people, most notably when he dishonors the memory of his fallen city by becoming the men he hated most, the Greek invaders. The picture of Aeneas as seen in the end of the Aeneid bears some sticking resemblances to his own depiction of the savage and treacherous Greeks in the early books.

The classic definition of a hero includes one who is endowed with great courage and strength, and is celebrated for their bold exploits. In some ways Aeneas is very similar to other heroes encountered in other classic texts, but with critical differences. Gilgamesh, perhaps the first hero chronologically, is a good place to…

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…azards of human nature. Perhaps it was even a message intentionally hidden in the text to bring a sobering light on the perceptions of war as honorable and glorious. It might have even been a way for Virgil to express his resentment for having written a work that he knew would be viewed as propaganda. I think it is very telling that Virgil tried to burn the epic on his deathbed, signaling not only that he was not happy with it, but maybe that he regretted having written it with Aeneas cast as a hero.

Works Cited and Consulted

Fuller, Mary. “Forgetting the Aeneid.” American Literary History 4:3 (1992): 517-38.

Silvestris, Bernardus. Commentary on the First Six Books of Virgil’s Aeneid. Translated by Schreiber and Maresca. University of Nebraska Press. London, 1979.

Virgil. The Aeneid. Translated by Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.

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