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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a Middle English romance poem

written by an anonymous West Midlands poet also credited with a lot of

other poems written during that time. The protagonist, Sir Gawain, survives

two tests: a challenge, which he alone without the assistance of King

Arthur’s knights accepts, to behead the fearsome Green Knight and to let

him retaliate a year later at the distant Green Chapel; and the temptation

to commit adultery with the wife of Lord Bercilak–in reality the Green

Knight–in whose castle he stays in en route to the chapel. This story is

emblematic of life; how it issues tests and challenges and the consequences

rendered as a result of failing or succeeding these challenges.

Sir Gawain is a very symbolic character; symbolic in the sense that

he represents innocence in life. He was not afraid to accept a challenge

because it meant saving the kingdom from the affects of anarchy as a result

of not having a king. Sir Gawain accepting the challenge from the Green

Knight instantly represented one of the things that knighthood represented,

fearlessness. People accept those kind of challenges everyday. This could

possibly be where the term “sticking your neck out” could have come from.

When people accept challenges, most do not want to accept the consequences

as a result of being unsuccessful. Gawain was not like this. When the year

passed he gallantly mounted his horse and set off for the Green Chapel.

This showed that Gawain was brave. This was preceded by the warning “Beware,

Gawain, that you not end a betrayer of your bargain through fear.”

Along this journey Gawain faces peril and self-reluctance in the

form of the elements and the never-ending search for the chapel

respectively. These feeling can be characterized as the inner turmoil

suffered as a result of dealing with one’s conscience. The journey also

tested his faith in the sense that he was constantly in prayer during his

journey, and not once did he curse or renounce the name of God. It seems as

if the prayers were what kept Gawain sane and focused on the purpose of

his journey. Gawain’s prayers were answered when he rode along and finally

came upon a place that he could petition for possible rest.

French Influence of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

French Influence of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight utilizes the convention of the

French-influenced romance. What sets this work apart from regular Arthurian

or chivalric romances is the poet’s departure from this convention. The

clearest departure takes place at the resolution of the piece as the hero,

Sir Gawain, is stricken with shame and remorse rather than modest knightly

pride, even after facing what appears to be certain death and returning to

his king alive and well. Although this manner of closure would leave much

to be desired for an audience who is interested in reading a ridigly

conventional romance, the coexistence of the romantic convention with the

departure from it inspires questions concerning why the author would choose

to work within such guidelines and what the significance is of breaching

those guidelines. By employing the chivalric convention in romantic

literature and then going beyond it to reveal other ways of thinking, the

writer challenges the very notion of chivalric conventions of the

surrounding social climate. He demonstrates throughout the work a need for

balance. As symbolied by the pentangle worn by Sir Gawain, representing

the balanced points of chivalric virture, each being codependent of the

other in order to remain a whole, the narrative could be considered as a

What accompanies an appreciation for the seemingly sudden shift

from the typical romance at the end of the piece is the raised awareness

that the change does only seem to be sudden. Careful exlporation of the

plot, setting, and character descriptions illuminates several deviations

from the established convention of the ideal society existing within the

text. The effect is then a type of balancing act– blah blah blah

The opening of the piece sets a fairly typical stage for an

Anthurian romance, giving relevant historical and geographical information.

King Arthur’s court is going on as it is expected to be within the social

constructs, merrily feasting and celebrating the Christmas holiday. The

entrance of the Green Knight into Arthur’s court marks a significant event.

He is a courtly figure from their recognizable world. He appears as a

knight ought to appear: tall, handsome, and fashionably dressed; however,

the Green Knight’s adherence to the conventions of the court is offset by

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