gender role. The Lady’s role questions traditional presumptions of the roles of women in medieval literature. Women of the Middle Ages were generally dependent, inferior, and many female portraits in medieval texts did not fare better. While men of the Middle Ages were generally chivalry, valiance, noble and honest. Throughout the poem I began to see gender roles being reversed between Lady Bertilak and Sir Gawain.
“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.
In the poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written by the anonymous Pearl Poet, Gawain is a guest of King Bertilak and is staying at his castle. During his stay, three separate hunts take place. These hunts parallel temptations aimed at Gawain by the Queen, Bertilak’s wife, in order to test his knightly virtues. In each hunt scene, the characteristics of the prey are paralleled with Gawain's actions against the temptations of the Queen. The scenes provide different but parallel viewpoints on a situation whose meaning can be understood only together. The significance of the animals at each stage of the hunt are symbolic; the hunting scenes act as metaphors for the temptations. Using characteristics of the animals as well as increasing the vivid details of how they were slaughtered, the narrative makes it aware that with each increasing hunt, Gawain failing his test and is slowly being “skinned” of his virtues.
Even though the green knight turns out to be good at the end of the story, he still presents Gawain with a variety of difficult challenges throughout the poem that make him seem evil. The green knight is first perceived as evil when he barges into king Arthur’s castle and insults the knights of camelot for hesitating to cut off his head. The moment that Sir Gawain volunteers to cut off the green knights instead of allowing Arthur to do so he is crossing the threshold from the ordinary world into the world of adventure. When Gawain departs on his journey to have his head cut off he is putting the greater good of camelot before his preference of not being decapitated by giant green knights. This choice that Gawain makes marks his first step towards becoming a better knight. Even
When talking about a morally ambiguous character, many ideas may float to mind. Perhaps a Dr. Jekyll type of person will pop up in your mind, or maybe just simply a person who doesn’t let morality get in the way of their ambitions. For a character to have a sense of evil present in them, it is not necessary for them to walk around with an ominous laugh, or anything comical in those lines. Similarly, for a character to have a sense of good, it does not mean they have to be perfectly correct either. In order to put the morally ambiguity into perspective, it is necessary to analyze the presence of both good and evil into a real character, and how it affects the story as a whole. From the Pearl Poet’s chivalric romance, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, Sir Gawain is an excellent example of a morally ambiguous character. In the poem, Gawain’s purely good image was shattered when he cut off the Green Knight’s head, since he took the game as a challenge. That event could be considered as the event that set the plot into action, as the following events are all resulting from Gawain’s action. However, Gawain symbolizes good by initially embracing the knight's moral code in accepting the challenge and then, agreeing to the terms of the Green Knight. Gawain still symbolizes goodness by demonstrating proper knightly actions at times. The Pearl Poet uses Gawain as a morally ambiguous character to set up the plot. He firstly sets up Gawain as a good character, then uses a series of
The characteristics of heroism, magical elements, and the supernatural, just to name a few, are all shown in the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. First, we see the supernatural when the Green Knight speaks even though he has been beheaded. Next, we see magic and larger than life characters when the Green Knight reveals he is both Lord Bertilak and the giant knight. Lastly, heroism is shown when Sir Gawain stands up for his King and takes his place in battle. It is these characteristics that place Sir Gawain and the Green Knight into the genre of medieval
The tale of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” focuses primarily on beliefs of honor, bravery, and chivalry. The main character, Sir Gawain, embodies these qualities. His character is meant to be a model of chivalry. He emanates honor when he offers to fight the Green Knight for King Arthur. Medieval people would admire this courageous act. In his struggles to keep his promise Gawain demonstrates chivalry and loyalty until his honor is assessed, in the end, by the Green Knight’s schemes. This tale also includes a larger-than-life character who commands respect, the Green Knight. This superhuman being defies all laws of nature when his head is chopped off, yet he still remains alive and alert. These characters and their extraordinary actions provide perspective for the values and interests of medieval people.
In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, after Gawain ventures “into a forest fastness, fearsome and wild” (Norton, 311), he prays that he will be able to find “harborage” on Christmas Eve (Norton, 312). It is the middle of winter, and Gawain has been traveling in search of the Green Knight whose head he has cut off. After he prays and signs himself three times, Gawain finds a magical castle in the midst of a winter forest. He rides to the castle and is granted permission to enter by the lord. Gawain is attended to in a fashion befitting kings, and he meets the lord who tells his identity to all in the court. There are many significant implications and foreshadowings which occur during Gawain’s
In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, by an unknown author referred to as the “Pearl Poet,” we are introduced to Sir Gawain. Gawain is a knight of the Round Table and he is also the nephew of King Arthur. As a knight, Gawain is expected to possess and abide by many chivalrous facets. Throughout the poem he portrays many of the qualities a knight should possess, such as bravery, courtesy, and honor among others. Because of his ability to possess these virtues even when tempted to stray away from them, Sir Gawain is a true knight.
Gawain however will not coward out and will remain loyal to the agreement and shrugs off the warning. He eventually runs into the Green Chapel and calls out for the Green Knight. The Green Knight takes three swings at Gawain purposefully missing the first two, and then nipping the neck of Gawain on the third blow. Gawain, not harmed, arose and requested to fight the Green Knight drawing his sword. The Green Knight says he didn’t want to fight only because Gawain has fulfilled the agreement already. He explains that he spared Gawain the first two times for receiving the kisses back from him but the third blow was for not returning the Green Girdle he received. Gawain was thankful and explained that women were the reason for men’s downfall giving examples. The Green Knight introduces himself as Lord Bertilak and explained the Old lady whose face was covered was his Aunt Morgan Le Fay, Merlin’s apprentice, and that he had a spell cast on him. He says the main reason he came to King Arthur’s court was Morgan Le Fay’s plan to scare Queen Guinevere to death. He asked Gawain to come and stay at his castle because he is loved there but he declines and rides back to Camelot with The Girdle under his left arm to show that he committed fault to enemies back along the way as well as the
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.
The character of the Green Knight, Sir Bertilak, wholly opposes the Christian, honorable characterization of Gawain. When Gawain comes to meet the Green Knight, he exclaims: “‘Can this be the Chapel Green?/Alack!’ ...Here might/The devil himself be seen/Saying matins at black midnight” (2185-2188). The Green Knight is a fairy, who resides in a parody of a church. His pagan figure contrasts sharply with this characterization of Gawain, who is strongly connected with his Christian faith. Gawain is also a foil to the Green Knight in that Gawain epitomizes courtly manners, whereas the Green Knight lacks courtesy. He traipses into Camelot and acts as though he cannot tell Arthur is king (224-231), and later refers to the courtiers as “beardless children” (280), showing a great lack of manners. Later, as Sir Bertilak is hosting Gawain, it seems that the Green Knight does actually possess courtesy. However, boarding Gawain is revealed to be a part of a grand scheme to shame prideful knights of the Round Table (2456-2459). The illegitimacy of his courtesy toward Gawain shows that the Green Knight lacks the honesty attributed to truly courteous knights. The Green Knight, a pagan figure that shuns the manners of the court, is inverted by the character of Gawain, who epitomizes honorable knighthood in this
Upon first Reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, I noticed that it comes off as a romantic normative poem about chivalric ideals and traditions of the ruling class with covertly Christian Images. The protagonist character Sir Gawain stands out as the role model of the chivalric ideals of the 14th century while displaying Christian images on his armor. The combination of Gawain’s armor and actions throughout the poem exemplify his characteristics of Christian perfection and chivalric ideals. The very first scene with Bertilak of Hautdesert known as the Green Knight begins to mold your perception of how chivalrous Sir Gawain is by portraying him as valiant, humble, and virtuous knight to Arthur. I felt that the interruption of Arthur
According to Christopher Reeve, “a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” In today’s culture, the hero is frequently depicted as a knight in shining armor, an image that originates from age-old literature such as the fourteenth-century Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In such literary works, the heroic knight has several virtuosic character traits: friendship, chastity, generosity, courtesy, and piety; however, he must also endure a quest in which his virtues are tested. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, three obstacles challenge the hero Gawain’s morals, including the Green Knight, the seductress, and the threat of death, leading to a further maturity of