Themes in Sir Gareth

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Sir Thomas Malory wrote Le Morte d’Arthur in the middle of the fifteenth century and it has now become a paradigmatic representation of Middle English Literature. In this essay I am going to look closely at a section of The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney; paying close attention to style, theme and lexis used as well as looking at how this passage fits into the society of the fifteenth century. The extract I am going to examine is situated close to the start of the narrative; hence it provides key introductions to characters. Unquestionably one of the main themes of this narrative is chivalry. Chivalry was a concept well known in the fifteenth century and it was seen as the absolute ideal way to conduct oneself…show more content…
These are insulting terms in a chivalric society; the reader sees Kay must be overcome in order for the hero to succeed. In the lexicon used by Kay are the words ‘”browes”’ and ‘”hog”’. ‘Browes’ can be used to describe a hill and the word ‘hoge’ means hill also, this represents Kay as something which must be conquered. Kay says that Gareth should have asked for ‘horse and armour’ showing that he is the opposite of chivalric - the antithesis of a role-model. Gareth feels he must prove himself to earn his horse and armour, it is not honourable to be gifted these things. Kay is also disrespectful, he ‘scorned and mocked’ Gareth, these words have connotations of being cheated or deceived again highlighting Kay as an untrustworthy character. Kay shows contempt for Gareth and no mutual respect, a cornerstone or chivalric value, by likening him to a ‘”porke hog”’, an ugly, bestial metaphor. The fifteenth century was a period where knighthood was in decline and the middle classes were becoming prevalent within society. I believe it is possible Sir Gareth of Orkney was written in order to provide a template of chivalry for the middle classes. It was a fear amongst the aristocracy that the middle classes would rise up and usher in a new society. It is possible that Malory’s depiction of chivalry here is attempting to show the
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