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The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

:: 2 Works Cited :: 3 Works Consulted
Length: 1606 words (4.6 double-spaced pages)
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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 time perceive women as passive tokens, adulteresses, and manipulators.

Guinevere from the very beginning of the legend is portrayed as a passive, typical lady of the court. In stanza four, the author describes Guinevere almost as a trophy or ornament of the court: "Queen Guinevere very gaily was gathered among them/....The prettiest lady that one ...


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... English Literature, Sixth Edition, Volume One. General Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: Norton, 1993.

Works Consulted:

Bennett, Michael J.  "The Historical Background" in A Companion to the Gawain-Poet, pp. 71-90.  Derek Brewer and Jonathan Gibson, editors.  Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1997.

Putter, Ad.  An Introduction to the Gawain-poet.  New York: Addison Wesley Longman, 1996.

Riddy, Felicity.  "Jewels in Pearl" in A Companion to the Gawain-Poet, pp. 142-55.  Derek Brewer and Jonathan Gibson, editors.  Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1997.

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