Female Characters In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

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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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