Between 1100s and 1500s English Literature has evolved from epic poems written in Old English, like Beowulf, to poems about Christian values and courtly love written in Middle English, a new language spoken after the Norman conquest. It is in this time period that the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” was written. This essay explores the poem's female characters such as Queen Guinevere, Morgan Le Fay, Lady Bertilak and the Virgin Mary throughout the text and their marginal and secondary role in the story.
Many Arthurian stories depicted women having passive roles as their fathers' or husbands' mere possessions. These would show the Maiden off, either to expose their wealth to the other noble men or to find a suitable husband who would pay a high price for the woman in question. This is the case of the first female character we encounter in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, Queen Guinevere, renowned to be the most beautiful woman in Camelot. In the first scene Guinevere is simply sitting at the table, covered in jewels and expensive garments to impress the court and the knight within it. Her job is to be distant and to show no interest in the kindness and love she gets from the men. She just sits there and gets admired like a painting:
“Their merrymaking rolled on in this manner until mealtime, when, worthily washed, they went to the table /… / with Guinevere in their gathering, gloriously framed at her place on the platform, pricelessly curtained by silk to each
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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an Arthurian poem; an enchanting story of chivalry, romance and heroism. With its intricately woven details, parallels and symbols, the reader will often easily overlook these facets in a story of this caliber. Undoubtedly, the author would not have spent time on details that do not add to the meaning of the overall telling of the story. The three hunting scenes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and in parallel, the three temptations, monopolize a considerable portion of the story. In a comparison of the three hunts and their corresponding temptations, we will see how the poet parallels these circumstances to emphasize the meaning of its symbolism.
Marie De France’s Lanval is a remarkable short narrative that engages the reader into a world filled with unrealistic elements, but enhances on the true meaning of romance, chivalry and nature during the years that King Arthur reigned. “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight” unfortunately does not have an author that can be recognized but this epic poem demonstrates the ghastly adventure of a knight who decides to defend the honor of young King Arthur against a supernatural being in this malicious game of cat and mouse. Both of these pieces of literature have enchanting characteristics that define them as a masterpiece of their era and that’s why they both are easily compared and contrasted. In addition, both Lanval and “Sir Gawain and The
A medieval romance is a kind of writing that has a mysterious, supernatural setting, idealizes chivalry and courtly love, and may involve masking a character's real identity. Usually the hero of a medieval romance is a knight who takes an unusual challenge and whose triumph brings glory to the king and the nation. This paper will be an analytical essay, I will examine the writing “Sir Gawain and the Green knight” and show how it fits into the medieval romance genre.
A close reading of the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight reveals a very antifeminist view. The poem, told in four parts, tells of common medieval folklore. The stories seem to be of different plotlines, but start to intersect in interesting ways – that is, the character of Morgan Le Fay begins to frame the stories together. The half-sister of King Arthur, she holds intense hatred for her half-brother and his court. It is her thirst for the downfall of Camelot that makes this character infamous, and, surprisingly, her success and the strength of her ability that give a bad name to women. Through the examination of Morgan Le Fay’s character, it is clear that a successful woman is always an illusion.
In the Middle Ages, the roles of women became less restricted and confined and women became more opinionated and vocal. Sir Gawain and The Green Knight presents Lady Bertilak, the wife of Sir Bertilak, as a woman who seems to possess some supernatural powers who seduces Sir Gawain, and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath Prologue and Tale, present women who are determined to have power and gain sovereignty over the men in their lives. The female characters are very openly sensual and honest about their wants and desires. It is true that it is Morgan the Fay who is pulling the strings in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; nevertheless the Gawain poet still gives her a role that empowers her. Alison in The Wife if Bath Prologue represents the
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the most intriguing Middle English chivalric romances known today. The poem is a delicately written balancing act between two cultures, clashing in a time of unease between the religion of tradition, (paganism) and the new religion, (Christianity). The poem is also one of the best known Arthurian tales, with its plot combining two types of folklore patterns, the beheading game and the exchange of winnings. The Green Knight is interpreted by many as a representation of the Green Man of folklore and by others as an allusion to Christ. The story is told in stanzas of alliterative verse, ending in a bob and wheel. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an important poem in the Middle English romance genre, because it involves all the typical plot progression of a hero who goes on a quest to prove himself. Yet what sets Sir Gawain apart from heroes of lore is his inability to finish his quest. The aspect which makes Sir Gawain and the Green Knight different is Sir Gawain’s failure. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a perfect example of the struggle between enduring Paganism and newfound Christianity.
Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur,” and the Gawain Poet’s “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” are important works that should be considered when studying medieval literature. They both portray the style and structure of medieval romance. They also tackle the same topic of King Arthur and his knights, as well as share the same characters of King Arthur and Sir Gawain. In order to be able to go over these works and understand them, one must understand the aspects of literature of the time.
We as readers realize that many women of this era were objects of courtly love. However, in other Arthurian texts, Guinevere takes a more active role in the story and portrays an adulteress. In "Du Mantel mautaille" a knight arrives at King Arthur's court and brings with him a magic coat which is to fit the women who has been faithful to her husband or lover. Guinevere is singled out by the author as the "incarnation of unfaithfulness" (Bloch 95). In medieval literature, women are also portrayed as adulteresses such as the Lady in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a classic example of the behaviors of a medieval knight and how the code of chivalry works within the courts and towards women. When Sir Gawain visits Bertiak’s castle, he respectfully treats the elderly woman and Bertiak’s beautiful young wife with the same level of dignity. “To the elder in homage he humbly bows; the lovelier he salutes with a light embrace. They welcome him warmly, and straightaway he asks to be received as their servant, if they so desire” (lines 973-976). The treatment of women is an essential part of the code of chivalry. If Sir Gawain had only given attention to the pretty young woman, then he would not have been abiding by the knight’s code of honor. He also keeps the code of chivalry intact when he says “Lover have I none, nor will have, yet awhile” (line 1790). Sir Gawain says this to Bertiak’s attractive wife, when she tries seducing him in the bedroom, which proved Sir Gawain’s loyalty to Bertiak, upholding his chivalric code. Honorable Sir Gawain demonstrates the knightly code of chivalry throughout the poem.
During a high point in medieval chivalric romance, both Marie de France’s Lanval and the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight tell fanciful tales of knighthood, chivalry, and spiritual and temporal (courtly) love. Both Lanval and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight portray their female characters as possessing considerable power and influence, within the events in the story and in the structure of the plot. Indeed, the female characters in both works function as the catalysts of the events within the stories, and also as instruments for each author's conveyed meaning. While Lanval presents its female characters in an unorthodox reversal of gender roles, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight employs the female characters as moral and spiritual trials for the hero, Sir Gawain. I will examine how the fairy princess and Queen Gwenevere in Marie de France's Lanval present a reversal of gender roles as was traditionally understood; she presents femininity as powerful, inspiring, and morally dynamic (for a woman can be ideal, or she can be corrupt). I will compare this to the representation of Lady Bertilak and Morgan le Fay in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in which they are used to convey a “Biblical” warning for an ecclesiastical audience; particularly that of moral failure and the temptation of the flesh.
Marie De France’s Lanval is a remarkable short narrative that engages the reader into a world filled with unrealistic elements, but enhances on the true meaning of romance, chivalry and nature during the years that King Arthur reigned. “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight” unfortunately does not have an author that can be recognized but this epic poem demonstrates the ghastly adventure of a knight who decides to defend the honor of young King Arthur against a supernatural being in this malicious game of cat and mouse. Both of these pieces of literature have enchanting characteristics that define them as a masterpiece of their era and that’s why they both are easily compared and contrasted. In addition, both Lanval and “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight” can be classified as similar through their themes, style and plots, although they are different through their language and diction. Even though both of these literatures can be viewed as similar as well as contrasting, in the end, each of these tales have illuminated the realm of fantasy throughout the court of King Arthur.
In Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, not only does the most prominent female character receive more respect from men, but readers -- unlike those of Gilgamesh -- are able to see and understand what she is feeling. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the most significant woman featured is referred to as "the lady" and represents a
The tale of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight is a well-known piece of literature spawning from the middle Ages. It’s believed to be dated around the year 1400 and it currently survives on a single manuscript in the British Library shared by three other poems. Pearl, is one of the middle-aged poems on the manuscript, the other two are named: “Patience” and “Cleanliness,” and are considered Bible Stories to Historians. These Other Poems however haven’t shown promise of survival in British Literature and Chivalry courses as much as Sir Gawain and The Green Knight has. Not having a known Author also makes this story all the more interesting considering the nature behind the story as well as the mysticism involved in the text. In this essay, a broad
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.
“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is an excellent work to reference when examining different relationships within Arthurian legends. The author of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is unknown, but he is sometimes referred to as the “Gawain Poet” or “Pearl Poet” because of his additional works: “Pearl,” “Purity,” and “Patience.” All four poems were part of the Alliterative Revival of the Middle Ages of Northern England, containing mostly religious content. This may be the origin of Gawain’s exaggeratedly religious portrayal in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is organized in a stanza arrangement. Each stanza ends with one short line and four longer lines, called the bob and wheel, which “knits” the story together. It may important to note that the work was most likely written in the fourteenth century. The work is set in sixth-seventh centuries, but includes modern advances in armory, dress, and décor from the time the poem was written. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” exhibits many different types of love and relationships in which they are demonstrated. Familial love, spiritual love, erotic love, and courtly love are demonstrated within families, friendships, marriages, and Godly relationships.