Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

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Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

Text Analysis: Passages 203-278

Summary

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight takes place early in the career of King Arthur. Young and naive, Arthur presides over a court that has great wealth and few problems. The Green Knight is a mysterious and magical character who presents a challenge to the pride and wealth of Arthur's kingdom. However, this challenge is not to the battle-strength of Arthur's court, but to its values.

The Green Knight disrupts a Christmas celebration taking place in Camelot, and offers a contest: an exhange of ax-strokes. Gawain takes up the contest and chops off the head of the Green Knight who survives through magical means. Gawain sets forth to accept the return blow which is to take place a year and one day from the first. While Gawain is searching for the Green Knight's chapel, he is taken in by a great lord named Bercilak who puts Gawain's honesty and integrity to the test. In parrying Bercilak's wife's attempts at seduction with gentlemanly skill, Gawain passes this moral test. Finally, we discover that the lord is in fact the Green Knight himself. Instead of being killed at the Green Knight's hands, Gawain returns to Arthur's court with a green girdle: representative of Gawain's only failure. By accepting the girdle from Bercilak's wife and not surrendering it as the wager demanded, Gawain fails in his promise. With love for his own life as his only failure, Bercilak and Arthur find little fault with Gawain, and Gawain's reputation as the most virtuous of the Knights of the Round Table remains unblemished.

The following analysis is of a passage early in the story. The Green Knight has just made an impressive entrance into Arthur's court, and is ready to issue his challenge.

Passage Synopsis:

Passages 203-207:

The Green Knight is on his horse in Arthur’s court, and his appearance is being described. He is not wearing battle-gear, and has no armor or shield for defense. He is holding a holly bob which is a symbol of peace.

Passages 208-220:

He is carrying one weapon: a huge green ax. Many lines are used to describe this awesome looking ax. It’s wound with iron and lace, and tassels and buttons of bright green hang from it.

Passage 221-232:

The Green Knight rather rudely ignores all the guests and goes directly to look for Arthur, referring to him as "The captain of this crowd.

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