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The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

Sir Gawain and The Green Knight is an example of medieval misogyny. Throughout Medieval literature, specifically Arthurian legends like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the female characters, Guinevere, the Lady, and Morgan leFay are not portrayed as individuals but social constructs of what a woman should be. Guinevere plays a passive woman, a mere token of Arthur. The Lady is also a tool, but has an added role of temptress and adulteress. Morgan leFay is the ultimate conniving, manipulating, woman. While the three women in this legend have a much more active role than in earlier texts, this role is not a positive one; they are not individuals but are symbols of how men of this time perceive women as passive tokens, adulteresses, and manipulators.

Guinevere from the very beginning of the legend is portrayed as a passive, typical lady of the court. In stanza four, the author describes Guinevere almost as a trophy or ornament of the court: “Queen Guinevere very gaily was gathered among them/….The prettiest lady that one may describe/She gleamed there with eyes of grey/To have seen one fairer to the sight/That no one could truly say” (74-84). Guinevere does not take an active role in the court. She does not have speaking role and basically just sits among the knights of the Round Table. Her passivity and silence could be the result of medieval anti-feminism. According to Bloch in medieval times what a woman wants is to speak. Medieval authors such as Andreas Capellanus, the supposed author of The Art of Courtly Love writes, “Furthermore, not only is every woman by nature a miser, but she is also envious, and a slanderer of other women……fickle in her speech,….a li…

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… because of her beauty. And Morgan leafy while she might be an all-powerful sorcerer, she is a ultimately a manipulator and scapegoat.

Works Cited:

Bloch, R. Howard. Medieval Misogyny and the Invention of Western Romantic Love. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1991.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Sixth Edition, Volume One. General Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: Norton, 1993.

Works Consulted:

Bennett, Michael J. “The Historical Background” in A Companion to the Gawain-Poet, pp. 71-90. Derek Brewer and Jonathan Gibson, editors. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1997.

Putter, Ad. An Introduction to the Gawain-poet. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, 1996.

Riddy, Felicity. “Jewels in Pearl” in A Companion to the Gawain-Poet, pp. 142-55. Derek Brewer and Jonathan Gibson, editors. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1997.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Jumping Mouse

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Jumping Mouse

Truth is like trout. Slippery, it becomes difficult to grasp tightly in any attempt to catch it, and is even more difficult to show to other people, in that when one holds it up for scrutiny it is often lost in the struggle to do so. “Jumping Mouse” and Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave” have a common theme in the form of the search for truth, and showing this truth to the unenlightened. They vary greatly, however, in the carrying out of their exposure of truth, and more, their view of truth and how it is to be handled.

In the ancient story of “Jumping Mouse”, Mouse finds his way to the river and medicine through his ability to literally jump past his fears and see the sacred mountains. When he does so, he catches a glimpse of a personal vision that is to drive him through the remainder of the story, and eventually to a higher plane when he is changed into an eagle. This vision is everything to him from that point on, and he strives from then on to reach it. After he has seen it and fallen into the river, he returns to where the rest of the mice are busy with the same thing they did when he left. They are enthralled in their narrow worlds and views, and so treat him with fear when they see him. They choose to make a story to explain his physical change, an excuse to stay away from him, possibly because they fear the ideas of change he brings back with him.

On the most basic level, Jumping Mouse at that point threatens their existence. They are mice, and defined by the fact that they are ever busy: burrowing and nesting and foraging; Jumping Mouse comes back with the idea that this might not be the only thing to life. Obviously they cannot simply drop everything they had known to that point and take up his view, so they instead rejected him.

Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” is similar in that a fabled and nameless man who had been chained to his illusions was set free and saw the true nature of all that was around him, outside of the cave. When he hypothetically returns to try to tell those who are still chained there of the outside world, and how everything they see is only the faint shadows outlining the true nature of reality, they reject him outright.

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