Sir Gawain's Shield and the Green Night: A Semiotic Analysis

1378 WordsJun 21, 20186 Pages
In the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Gawain must go on a quest to find the Green Knight from whom he accepted a challenge a year earlier. Because Gawain lives the chivalric code, he must keep his promise to the Green Knight and let him get one swing of the axe one year and a day after he swung the axe on him. Before leaving for this quest, Gawain was given amazing armor and a descriptive shield. This shield was more than just a shield; it had a much greater meaning like many other items and actions throughout the poem. The shield is the most important symbol in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as it reaffirms the importance of both the chivalric code and Christianity to the people of the Middle Ages. Sir Gawain was given…show more content…
The back of the shield has the image of Mary painted on it to help Gawain mentally when he was losing faith and hope. During his journey, Gawain loses hope to the point that he knows the only way he can survive is with the help of Mary. With little hope left, “Sir Gawain, at that tide, / To Mary made his prayer, / For fain he was to ride / Where he might shelter share” (Weston, II. x. 24-27). When he has finished praying, he finds up ahead of him a large, two mile wide castle that was not there before. Without Mary, Gawain would most likely have not been able to make it to the Green Chapel, and all of the Knights of the Round Table would be known as cowards. Because of this, Gawain is made to realize that he is but human and fallible and that the ways of the world make it difficult to be sure of not falling from grace in some way. It is only the protection of Mary that helps him keep to the difficult line between clannes and cortaysye and the trap or at least dilemma into which he falls is an extremely insidious one for a man who might regard the offered girdle as a gift of a divinely ordered fate (Evans). Chivalry was relevant in many ways in the Middle Ages. High expectations of virtuous and noble behavior on behalf of God, the church, and those the church marked as worthy of protection were the Christianized form of chivalry (Gregory-Abbott). “The ideal chivalric knight was brave, loyal, and determined as well as compassionate, just,

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