The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight Essay

1612 Words7 Pages
The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight Sir Gawain and The Green Knight is an example of medieval misogyny. Throughout Medieval literature, specifically Arthurian legends like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the female characters, Guinevere, the Lady, and Morgan leFay are not portrayed as individuals but social constructs of what a woman should be. Guinevere plays a passive woman, a mere token of Arthur. The Lady is also a tool, but has an added role of temptress and adulteress. Morgan leFay is the ultimate conniving, manipulating, woman. While the three women in this legend have a much more active role than in earlier texts, this role is not a positive one; they are not individuals but are symbols of how men of this…show more content…
The female character speaks, "I am forbidden to speak, and I cannot keep silence" (Bloch 55). Guinevere's passivity in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight could be a reflection of these views as the author chose to suppress her voice in the text. Throughout the Sir Gawain text Guinevere is characterized as a pathetic, powerless lady: Well, [Morgan leFay] guided me in this disguise to your gay halls/ So that could see if you were all as superb and splendid/As the fame of the Round Table runs with renown/She produced this paradox in order to puzzle and perplex you/And to goad poor Guinevere halfway to her grave... (2456-2460). 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. The second female role in this text is the Lady of the manor, Sir Bertilak de Hautdesert's wife. The Lady first appears in this text in stanza 18: "She was the fairest of all
Open Document