Even if Gawain is able to abstain from having sex with the daughter in “The Knight of the Sword”, it is only because his life is at risk, not because he is showing any sort of respect towards the young girl. Had the threat of the sword not been quite literally hanging over his head, Gawain would have indulged himself with the daughter, not just to satisfy his own sexual needs but also to preserve his reputation as a chivalrous knight. The language of his argument is also telling of what his reputation entails. Gawain’s greatest problem he sees it as his responsibility to “do something” to the young girl. However, although Gawain never truly inquires if the daughter would want to have sex with him, she does not seem unwilling. Rather, she insists that the pair do not have sex so that they knight will not be killed. After she warns Gawain of his father’s plot, she reveals her feelings towards Gawain, she stating, “Now you should be forewarned by me, for you are so courteous and wise that it would be a very great pity and it would grieve me ever afterwards if you were killed” (“The Knight” 116-117). Gawain’s knightly behavior saves him because the young girl is willing to risk disobeying her father to save Gawain. The daughter’s act deviates from the patriarchal norm of obeying her father, which suggests Gawain’s honorable conduct inspires the daughter to decide her own faith. However, the daughter ultimately never obtains autonomy and her tragic fate is decided by her finial
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Throughout this story, Sir Gawain has shown his great personality, and his commitment to being a true knight. He proved that he was humble, self-disciplined, truthful, and had integrity. Gawain woke up one morning to find that the host's wife had crept in the room, and sat on his bed. She jokes that she had snuck in and captured him. Gawain plays along, until the wife tries to talk him into engaging sexually. Gawain continuously denies her requests politely. The Wife says that she would have married him instead if she could have. Sir Gawain was humble and expresses that her husband is a better man. she finally gives up, but requests a kiss. She continues this for the next two days, yet Gawain contains himself, and keeps his mind and body pure,
Medieval scholars continually inspect the particularities of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (SGGK) within the context of the preexisting Gawain literary tradition, and the issue of Gawain’s sudden antifeminist diatribe repeatedly comes to the forefront of these textual investigations. Often, literary critics claim that Gawain’s antifeminist outburst is common for the fourteenth century and that his acceptance to wear the girdle as a sign of shame still epitomizes him as a model of knighthood. Other scholars hesitate to dismiss Gawain’s misogyny as commonplace, they note that this moment is inconsistent with his reputation as an ideal knight. Gawain’s hasty compulsion to blame women suggests ruptures within the essentiality of his chivalric identity and a closer examination of the text reveals that this moment is not isolated. Despite scholars repeated attempts to identify the essential knight within Gawain, there are several examples of Gawain’s unstable identity throughout the text. I will argue Sir Gawain’s knightly identity is performative rather than essential, and his diatribe is the culmination of his failure to perform his own expected social identity.
In the beginning of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain is introduced as a courtly knight with a sense of perfection. The author does this to compare it to his failures, which are later displayed through Gawain’s acts at Morgan le Fay’s castle. Gawain is portrayed to be a chivalrous knight with honor and courage. Gawain is presented with a challenge: accept the game to cut off the Green Knight’s head, and in a test of courage and honor, set out to allow the Green Knight to return the favor to him in a year and a day. This initially shows the knightly characteristics of Gawain which presents him as noble and honorable, which allows the author to shock the audience when Gawain falls under pressure to actions that contradict the chivalrous code. The first of these actions taken by Gawain in opposition to his morals is the temptation
The knight endangers his manhood accepting Lady Bertilak’s purpose. So, we can say that manhood includes Christian, chivalric and loyal codes that are the cornerstone of a moral value. Moreover, it is normal that men make the first moves but in this case, Lord Bertilak’s wife makes it. As June states “The Lady is the one “making the first move”, so to speak, but it is ultimately Gawain who decides what is to become of those actions” (24). She does it because of her self-confidence and feels herself a superior being to him which was not normal at all in women at that time.
The first temptation of Gawain is perhaps the most difficult for him to defend. This temptation corresponds with the hunt scene involving a stag. In terms of the hunt, the stag is hunted due to it being a staple food, but it can also be mounted as a trophy. In the same sense, the Queen views him as the “stag” she is trying to hunt. Her sexual desire for him is the sole purpose of her “pursuit”. She then tries to guilt him by saying, “A good man like Gawain… could have never lingered so long with a lady without craving a kiss” (p.164; line 1297). She is, in a sense, "hunting" Gawain in that she is pursuing him for the sole purpose of making him her “trophy” but is not flirting with him as much as she does in the next two temptations. If he falls prey to this temptation, then he has failed his knightly honor. In his reaction to the Queen, Gawain acts much like a stag. He first tries to unsuccessfully ignore her. Then, he stealthily avoids her advances, not directly confronting her, but subtly downplaying her advances, until he could attempt to escape.
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.
The story of Sir Gawain works on an opposite level from that of Beowulf. Just as Beowulf emphasizes outward strength, the character of Gawain stands as a paradigm of inner strength as a path to outward glory. The battles Gawain fights occur inside his mind. The chivalric code is one concerned with honor and duty within a society of corruption and sin. The role of chivalry was one concerned with example. A chivalric Knight, such as Gawain, must abide by the inner code of morality in order to remain true to his self, his lord, and his God. Sin, for Gawain, would begin in the mind, and lead to dishonorable deeds in the outside world. Throughout Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain travels on a path which is as much one of inner contemplation, as it is of actual travel. We see Gawain at the beginning of his journey being,"...faultless in his five senses,/Nor found ever to fail in his five fingers,"(640-1). Gawain’s traits being likened to the five wounds of Christ sets up his eventual fall from the very start. However, like Christ, Gawain is reborn to a new life through the "scratch" the Green Knight gives him (2312). From that small wound, Gawain realizes that he cannot live up to the perfect image of chivalry he has sworn to uphold. To Gawain, this wound comes very close to being the death knell of the entire moral system Gawain has dedicated his life to.
Sir Gawain is a heroic knight who refuses to fight against Sir Lancelot as he sees him a friend and a true knight. “Whereas the Heroic Knight defines honor as a family matter, the Worshipful Knight defines it rather as a matter between individuals” (Kennedy 66). Sir Gawain’s honor comes from his individualize relationships with others. When accosted to join Sir Agravain and Sir Mordred he refuses because Lancelot is his friend, and consider him to a brother to him. “I will never be against Sir Launcelot for one day 's deed, when he rescued me from King Carados of the Dolorous Tower, and slew him, and saved my life” (Mallory 440). Sir Gawain refuses to fight against Lancelot and “expose” him. He doesn’t believe that he will ever be against Sir Lancelot. However, this does change when Sir Gawain’s sons are slain and he harbors anger towards Lancelot. This harbored anger displays how Sir Gawain although honored Sir Lancelot before the loss of his sons, over powers the previous
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 next test of his character comes during his three-day stay at Hautdesert castle. His courtesy and honor are tested when the host’s lady pursues Gawain in order to fool him into action that will destroy his knightly ideal. She tempts him with “bosom all but bare”(SGGK l. 1741). With another man’s wife pursuing him, Gawain must be courtly and polite to the lady yet must deny her advances. She claims that since “he won her favor, he should claim a kiss from her as accords with the conduct of courteous knights” (SGGK l. 1489-1491). Gawain must abide by his morals and abstain from adulterous actions, while being a courteous knight. He is forced to make a choice to be courteous to the lady, thus dishonoring his host, or be discourteous and honor his host by not committing adultery with his wife. By choosing to return each of the successive kisses received, Gawain is able to pass the first test posed by
Despite the guide’s convincing statements, Gawain continues on. Here, Gawain values honor more than his life. This is one side of Gawain; the side that believes the importance of duty surpasses that of one’s life. On the other side is a frightened Gawain that believes the gift of life is greater in value to the honor one may receive. A known example of this is when he accepts the girdle from Lady Bertilak, believing it may offer him protection. Knowing how Gawain thinks, he still would have gone on had he not taken an extra precaution. However, an opportunity to save his life is too good to pass, especially when he is close to death, and he snatches it up.
Sir Gawain is reluctant to accept the Green Knight’s challenge. He fears for his life. In the end he only accepts the challenge to protect King Arthur’s life and honor. He knows it is his duty to protect King Arthur, but only volunteers to do so at the last second. Sir Gawain also breaks his oath to the Lord of the castle he is staying in. He broke their vow to trade whatever they had earned during the day when he keeps a sash the Lady of the castle gives him because he believes it will protect him during his battle with the Green Knight.
On the contrary, this type of modesty would invoke feelings of pity.Regardless of what others were thinking at the time, Gawain is determined to bare the cross of his deed in order to gain high renown among his peers and the devotion of the king. King Arthur's demonstrates his appreciation through his words of praise and the feast celebrating Gawain's courage.This is because he is expected, as a knight, to excel at humility and modesty due to the importance of the Christian state of mind in this epic poem. Gawain is a humble knight with a brave heart and many human flaws. Along with humility, the many traits of a good Christian Knight, such as chastity, are shown through Gawain’s encounter with Lady Bertilak. When speaking to lady Bertilak, Gawain admires her in a respectful and sacred approach. “As myself ever can, however long I may live/ would be absolute folly, noble lady, on my word/ I will carry out your desires with all my power/ as I am in all duty bound, and always will be/ the servant of your wishes” (Fitt 3.1544-1548). He assures her that for as long as he shall live, he will remain her noble servant attending to her every wish. Interestingly, although he has promised her to do as she pleases; he rejects her desire of a sexual encounter. He shows humility towards her for he is “completely unworthy” (Fitt 3.1244) of her seduction. He wants to remain true to his word, but cannot come to terms of allowing himself to
As you can see from the above quote, the Green Knight did not show any signs of being less of a man even though Gawain had cut off his head. This enforces the Green Knight's fatherly identity since, according to Freud, a child has a fear of being castrated by his father for wanting to engage in a sexual relation with his mother. The Green Knight has proven that he is a father figure for Gawain by showing that he can never be castrated by his son. Therefore, as a father figure that is in possession of a masculine identity above
By portraying Gawain as noble and honorable, the poet is able to shock the reader with actions that are uncharacteristic of a chivalrous knight. The first of these conflicting actions is obvious in the temptation of Gawain by his host's lady. This lady, the huntress, seeks to pursue Gawain in order to fool him into actions that contrast the knightly ideal. She will do anything to accomplish these actions in him, even through sexual temptations. With another man's wife pursuing him, Gawain must be courtly to the lady, but at the same time must deny her advances. This unavoidable conflict creates a fear within Gawain. Upon discovering that the lovely lady was approaching him in bed, Gawain lays a sleep, in order to "try her intent" (1199). This action reveals Gawain's fear that his host's lady is pursuing him. This unavoidable fear causes his failure of courtliness, for Gawain would have claimed a kiss from the lady, but did not. The lady ridicules him for this, even though, the situation was unavoidable. Gawain must abide by his morals and abstain from immoral thoughts, while at the same time being a courteous guest. Moreover, Gawain is forced to make a choice between courtesy and adultery, either of which would result in the dishonor of the lady ,his host, or Gawain himself. By choosing to return each of the following kisses received, Gawain is able