Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

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Some readers of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight may think that the challenges Gawain faces are no more than tests to show off his knighthood. I believe that the Green Knight’s challenges do more than try to test a knight’s might, but instead challenges the institution of chivalry and knighthood. At first, the Green Knight’s proposition appears to be nothing more for him than a game, but the challenges that he sets up a part from the original beheading game alludes to a much more serious goal. These goals I believe are to challenge the court of Arthur and their supposed authority over all that is chivalric and masculine. By the decree of the Green Knight, Gawain and the court pass the tests, but in my view they do not “pass” the tests and instead fail to realize that the Green Knight was exploiting their views on knighthood. Chivalry and knighthood are very similar in usage, though, they are not synonymous. Chivalry consists of the many qualities that make up the Arthurian knight and they include generosity, courtesy, and valor. Knighthood encompasses chivalry in addition to the many duties they must carry out such as fighting in battles or, in the case of Arthurian myth, help the king rule over a kingdom. These qualities are what attract the Green Knight to Arthur’s court which he discusses when he arrives at the court: And your court and your company are counted the best, Stoutest under steel-gear on steeds to ride, Worthiest of their works the wild world over And peerless to prove in passages of arms, And courtesy here is carried to its height, And so at this season I have sought you out (Lines 259-264) The Green Knight notes that he has heard many things about the knights of Arthur’s court and the bulk of it being ab... ... middle of paper ... and that the Green Knight’s minor strike was enough. However, what must Gawain, or any knight other knight for that matter, do in order face some sort of defamation. Returning to the Green Knight’s reasoning for not killing Gawain, it appears that as long a knight’s actions and words are of a true chivalric nature, a knight can do no wrong. A close reading of this text will have you pointing your analytical finger in many directions. The discussion of masculinity, chivalry, and knighthood are some very common themes of this story, but issues with feminism certainly appear as well. For example, how the Green Knight uses his wife in his scheme is very questionable. Of course, any examination of this text would be done with modern bias, but nonetheless it is interesting to analyze these sorts of topics especially when a trend can be found in modern literature.
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