Finding Lessons Among Symbols
Symbolism is an artistic technique to convey morals, describe emotions or venture on an exciting journey. In the medieval story, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the protagonist and one of King Arthurs most admirable knights, Sir Gawain has taken it upon himself to go on a quest and complete the game that the Green Knight has asked for and ultimately become a knight of the round table. Written in the fourteenth century by an unknown author, makes it more difficult for the reader to understand the reasoning behind the vast use of symbolism in the story. Symbols in this novel portray context clues, ideas, and chivalry are intertwined with signs which help the reader understand the historic meanings in the story. In the story, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, knights encounter multiple symbols such as garments, colors, and numbers that impact the interpretation and the significance or dimension of the reading. Sir Gawain’s decorated shield reveals a star, pentangle, and a picture of Mother Mary representing moral character and responsibilities. The unknown author introduces this cover piece as” he wore the five-point star on shield and surcoat in plain sight” (Line 636). The faultless personality in sir Gawain shows that he is perfect in his five senses and also represents the chivalric code and the way he responds to it. The Pentangle signifies truth and honesty which throughout the story is shown to be a challenge in the true personality of
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The inconsistencies in Sir Gawain’s identity become blatantly clear when contextualized within the literary tradition that established Gawain as fundamentally chivalrous.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late 14th-century Middle English alliterative romance about the adventure of Sir Gawain, King Arthur's Knight of the Round Table. This great verse is praised not only for its complex plot and rich language, but also for its sophisticated use of symbolism. Symbolism is a technique used in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to give a significance to the plot. The Green Knight, the Green Sash, and Sir Gawain's Shield are three of the most prominent symbols given to us in this verse.
Society expects ultimate perfection of all people. Due to this people are pressured to act a certain way that they would otherwise not act. The journey of obtaining perfection and maintaining it leads to success and failure. But what is considered failing while trying to become a different person? This topic is addressed in the poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written by Pearl Poet. The main character Sir Gawain finds himself on a journey that will test his knightly integrity and the true nature of his personality. Sir Gawain fails his quest when he responds to the challenge in an aggressive way; by doing so he shows his lack of concern for human life, he fails to uphold his agreement with Lord Bertilak, and succumbs to fear when the
Near the end of the battle, when Roland realizes his uncle Ganelon has betrayed them and is helping the enemy, he begins to get more and more injured. Even while continuing to fight like a true warrior, Roland understands that they will lose and finally sounds his olifant to alert Charlemagne. In this moment, “his pain is great, and from his mouth the bright blood comes leaping out, and the temple bursts in his forehead” (Roland 258). In the aftermath of the battle, the sheer force of this blow is enough to kill him. As a near representation of this powerful horn, I used shell-shaped noodles, which resemble the horn. While an olifant looks more like an elephant tusk than the conch shape of the noodles, the similarity to a horn is still clear. The Kalamata olives, which add a necessary salty bite to the dish, also sound similar to olifant and Oliver, who also dies a warrior’s death in the battle. While this dish is simple and light on symbolism, it was one of my favorites to eat.
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.
Shown to be a noble high class knight, Gawain’s behavior portrays that he is a brave and moral character. When King Arthur is about to meet the Green Knight’s challenge, Gawain steps in to take his place and asserts that he is the weakest of all knights and that he would not be missed if he had died. He conveys that he is truly humble and is willing to sacrifice himself for his uncle, expressing his courage and chivalric values of selfless loyalty. Furthermore, Gawain is depicted as “reputed good and, like gold well refined, He was devoid of all villainy, every virtue displaying”, hence the golden pentangle represents his purity and given that it is also a symbol of religion, Gawain depicts that he wants to be connected to God and maybe
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has an overload of symbolic archetypes, though one of the most symbolic, in my opinion, is Gawain’s shield. This symbolic shield accompanies Gawain on his journey to the Green Knight’s Chapel and has multiple meanings within itself. One is the picture of the Virgin
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.
The pentangle is Gawain's shield, it is used in battles and it is the shield he takes on his journey in search for the Green Knight. The pentangle contains the five virtues that Gawain is supposed to live by and stay true to throughout his
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.
Medieval literature is literature from medieval times, usually with the same themes of action, saving princesses, chivalry and corruption of the church. A theme can be concluded after reading the whole story. Themes have many underlying meanings and could mean anything. In every literature work there are many themes to discover. Common themes in medieval literature are magic, teaching of morals, and power.
Though often extensive detail may be condemned as mere flowery language, in understanding Sir Gawain and the Green Knight one must make special emphasis on it. In color and imagery itself, the unknown author paints the very fibers of this work, allowing Sir Gawain to discern the nuances of ritualistic chivalry and truth. His quest after the Green Knight is as simple as ones quest toward himself. Through acute awareness of the physical world he encounters Gawain comes to an understanding of the world beyond chivalry, a connection to G-d, the source of truth. He learns, chivalry, like a machine, will always function properly, but in order to derive meaning from its product he must allow nature to affect him.
To get a better understanding of the meaning and importance of the pentangle we must analyze the author’s description of the meaning of it or lack thereof. The author does give examples of the meanings of the symbol being explained as Gawain being faithful in five ways which he describes. However, the author doesn’t tell us what “he means when he talks about the things we call meaning” (Arthur 221), this gives the assumption that either at the time readers would have already known the meaning in the time period it was
In the opening lines of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Gawain-poet predicates the numerous dualities—which lead the reader through questions of moral seriousness—that exist in the poem. The opening historical recounting, according to Richard Hamilton Green, reminds the reader that “the greatness of the past is marred by reminders of failure” (179). The paradox of triumph and greatness arising out of failure foreshadows Sir Gawain following the same pattern of fate as his predecessors. While the completion of Gawain’s quest reaffirms the historical paradox of greatness, his journey to renown is fraught with situations and symbols that develop the poem’s main concern of moral seriousness. The Gawain-poet skillfully reveals his