“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is the classic tale of a knight of the round table who takes up the challenge of the mysterious Green Knight. The poem begins with the Green Knight’s sudden arrival and his declaration of his proposition: a knight may strike him, and then a year and one day from then he will return the blow. This tale is most well-known for dealing with the themes of a knight’s code of chivalry, loyalty, resisting temptation, and keeping one’s word. While the whole poem is full of great lines that beautifully deliver the message, one of the best passages come at the end of the poem after Sir Gawain has managed to survive his second encounter with the Green Knight. This passage perfectly encompasses the various themes of the poem, as it deals with all of the trials Gawain has faced up until that point and also explains how he deals with the shame he feels for surviving the game in the way he did.
Several fictional works set in Arthurian times contain numerous similar elements, whether that be in the structure of its plot or encounters with mythical beings; however, one particular element of these tales stands out among the rest, that being the knights in the stories. Both chivalrous and virtuous, knights are the very embodiment of Arthurian mythology, and are a staple in many Arthurian legends. Their courageous acts of selflessness and loyalty to their lords only add to their reputation, inspiring many authors throughout the ages to capture their likeness in various texts; however, only one author has been able to truly capture what it means to be a knight, that author being the “Gawain Poet.” Also known as the “Pearl Poet,” the “Gawain Poet” is most known for his chivalric romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The story revolves around a central conflict in which the protagonist, Sir Gawain, must fulfill an agreement with a mysterious knight. Gawain’s “debt” must be repaid exactly one year after their agreement, and if Gawain should fail to do so, his honor and reputation would be tarnished. It is through his struggles that Gawain not only grows as a character, but also shows what it means to truly be a knight. Sir Gawain is the epitome of a knight because he is not only chivalrous and virtuous, but also stays true to his word in the face of danger.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the poem of a Sir Gawain and his quest to find the Green Knight and the green chapel in one year and a day later. This occurs after the Green Knight appears in King Arthur's court to test the honor of the legendary knights of the roundtable. The challenge he brought would be that he will withstand the blow of his axe from any of the knights as long as that knight would agree to meet him in a year and a day later to receive a blow from the axe in return. No one would accept it, not even King Arthur. Therefore Sir Gawain decides he would accept the challenge after the Green Knight provokes Arthur because he was not accepting the challenge. Sir Gawain would go on a year later on a journey to find the Green Knight and the Green Chapel with many peculiar things happening on the way. He eventually finds him and receives the same blow from the Green Knight with the axe but nothing happens to him. There are some archetypes in the story, and we will see some examples of them.
An archetype, which can also refer to as a universal symbol, can not only limit it to theme, setting, and symbol but can also refer to as a character. A type of archetype can not only represent one character, it can represent many different types of characters. Depending on the story that the author wants to try and portray. In the medieval romance, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight dramatically demonstrates how a single character can play many archetypal roles. This story possesses many different types of characters that can all have more than one archetype. Having characters that more than one archetype in this story helps build Sir Gawain’s character and helps guide him through his initial quest and trails that he encounters to face in order to face the Green Knight. There are several different characters in the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that aid in the troubles that Sir Gawain faces throughout the story.
In many works of literature, many archetypes (or symbols) are used to help the reader understand the story of a hero’s quest. In the Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, the hero has to go on a fatal journey to uphold the reputation of Camelot. While enduring that journey, Gawain has to conquer many trails. Gawain’s succession of trials leaves the hero, like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, a “sadder but wiser man.” With all the trials that Gawins intakes, many archetypal characters contribute to the theme of the story.
At first the hero has no clue of the excursion set upon them, they receive a call to a journey from the herald which changes their life. In the poem, during the celebration takes place when the Green Knight challenges Camelot, “If any knight be so bold as to prove my words, let him come swiftly to me here..” (Weston 6); thus ultimately making this request the call for Gawain. Even though the Green Knight displays this challenge towards King Arthur, Gawain wholeheartedly intervenes and presents himself as the one to undergo the challenge. As Gawain agrees to the “fateful region of both treasure and danger…” (Campbell 53). He is a bit hesitant towards the refusal of the call the Green Knight has exemplified to the knights of Camelot but knows he must do it for the reputation of Camelot. Gawain must decapitate the Green Knight with an axe and in return the Green Knight has a right to deal him another but respite a year and a day Gawain has been given. The hero must leave the community to reach the initiation for the ultimate task. Gawain realizes he must uphold the chivalric code and accepts the task given and leaves the following year. When the hero departs for their quest, cultural values can be examined based upon their behavior. By the time Sir Gawain must depart for the Green Chapel, Arthur’s knights place various symbols on his armour demonstrating the rank of symbolism in Camelot with reference to Christianity.
Archetypes can be found in most literary work, especially in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight most characters or objects served to aid in the development of the hero by being either a situational, character, color, or a symbol archetype. The poem begins with a challenge being presented to the knights of the Round Table by the Green Knight. While seeing that no one else will accept the challenge, putting Camelot’s honor at stake, Gawain accepts and then realizes that in a year they must meet again and the Green Knight will return the blow that Gawain gave to him. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight dramatically demonstrates how a single character can play many archetypal roles.
With every corner we turn in today’s culture, we become more and more aware of the archetypes that surround us. Archetypes are the works of a typical character, situation, setting, or symbol that can be found in fantasy and reality. An example would be the renowned medieval story Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Pearl Poet. The author permeates the story with situational, symbolic, and character archetypes that illustrate the profound life of Sir Gawain. Sir Gawain was apprehensive of his journey at first, but as time passes, he began to make choices that unveils to the audience the true flawed knight that he was.
Gawain’s first portrayal of being a true knight comes when the Green Knight makes his appearance in Camelot. The Green Knight first speaks to King Arthur and proposes that they play a “game.” Arthur will strike the Green Knight with his axe, and in return the Green Knight will return the strike in a year and a day. King Arthur agrees to this game and its terms, but as he steps up to accept the challenge, Gawain comes forward and offers to participate in the “game” in place of King Arthur. Sir Gawain says to King Arthur, “I implore with prayer plain that this match should now be mine” (341-342). Gawain goes on to strike the Green Knight, cutting off his head. However, the strike does not kill the Green Knight; he picks up his head from the ground and repeats to Sir Gawain that he will return the blow in a year and a day. In this moment, Gawain’s bravery is clearly showcased. First, he takes a challenge in place of his king, which he did not have to do.
An archetypal analysis of Gawain’s quest reveals some significant changes that occur in the hero’s character. We will analyze the progress of the hero, Gawain, as he ventures out to complete his quest. By analyzing the works of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight along with The Hero With A Thousand Faces, and how it completes the Hero’s Journey.
Even in the middle ages of literature, a story such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight had many aspects of Joseph Campbell’s view of the hero’s journey. In the story of our character Sir Gawain accepts a “Call to adventure” (Campbell 45) and goes on a quest that will go through many of the archetypes. Likewise, there lies one character, The Green Knight, that can be many of the archetypal characters in the cycle of the hero’s journey. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight dramatically demonstrates how a single character can play many archetypal roles.
Gawain, a knight of the famed King Arthur, is depicted as the most noble of knights in the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Nonetheless, he is not without fault or punishment, and is certainly susceptible to conflict. Gawain, bound to chivalry, is torn between his knightly edicts, his courtly obligations, and his mortal thoughts of self-preservation. This conflict is most evident in his failure of the tests presented to him. With devious tests of temptation and courage, Morgan le Fay is able to create a mockery of Gawain’s courtly and knightly ideals. Through the knight Gawain, the poem is able to reveal that even knights are human too with less than romantic traits.
In this paper I will discuss the ideas, cultures, characteristics of the Middle Ages are referenced and how their presence interlocks in the work. Sir Gawain’s quest covers his obligation to have success on the test of becoming a Green Knight. This would help have return blow for the following Christmas. Because the Green Knight proposed a challenge, Gawain was required to follow the terms of the agreement. The journey to find the Green Knight is a sequence of temptations. He lodges at the Castle Bertilak, and completed bargains with his host. Gawain will exchange anything he gambles on with the Bertilak catches on the hunt.
Knights are well known for their gentlemen like characteristics. They are also unique due to the fact that they follow a noble knightly code of conduct. People often refer to the codes as the “code of chivalry” where knights must follow certain traits in order to be known as noble knights. There are a fair amount of traits that knights must be known for, and I believe the most important three of them all are honesty, loyalty, and most of all bravery.
The Green Knight's original challenge was for someone to step forward and strike him with his own axe under the condition that he meet him again one year later to receive a blow in return. Arthur steps up to the challenge, but in order to protect him, Sir Gawain steps up and meets the challenge instead. One year later he leaves Camelot to fulfill his agreement to receive a blow in return. Along his way to meet the Green Knight, Sir Gawain is met with a series of challenges as he encounters new people and new places. These challenges are moral and ethical in nature and are meant to test the quality of his character. He falls short, but has given his best effort. When he comes face to face with the Green Knight, he only gives him a minor