Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Passage Analysis: First Morning in the Green Castle

Sir Gawain plays a significant role in many Arthurian legends in the Middle Ages. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight he is the main hero, a warrior, with the concentration on the upcoming battle, rather than a seducing knight. During Gawain's visit to Bercilak's castle, the host's wife makes three advances to seduce Gawain into an adulterous relationship. With all his will power he tries to ignore advances of the Bercilak's wife. Some of the chivalric values, courage, respect for hospitality, honesty, pride, nobility and courtly love, help Sir Gawain in his query. The latter scenes explore the world of men and the appropriate environment for male chivalric actions. The lord is in the lead, the courageous and most active of the hunters. The bedroom scenes show another world of male-female relationship, where again, the knight proves his noble standing and devotion to true knighthood.

Before the daylight, in the morning, the host and his huntsmen set out after the boar. The poet describes in detail how cheerful the all-day-long hunt is, using a lot of details and images: there are men with "mighty bows," brave knights and their flying arrows, a lot of horns and barking hounds. Many hunters fear for their lives but the lord, the bravest of them all and a true knight, shows the example by leading the chase for the boar because it is his duty to be a shining example to his people. "And many feared for their lives, and fell back a little. But the lord on a lively horse leads the chase." [Norton, 1463-1464]

In the next scene, the poet turns away from the hunting scene to the Sir Gawain's bedroom in the castle, where he peacefully awakens from sleep. It seems that the poet intentionally positions the bedroom scenes within the hunting scenes: the symbolic hunt juxtaposed with the literal hunt. The lady, the host's wife, carefully enters the room. She sits beside him on the bed and he pretends to be surprised at seeing her here. The passage revolves around the host's wife attempts to seduce Sir Gawain, and he tries to avoid the consequences of such thing happening. She is a real temptress, tests his courtesy, virtue, decency, and a real object of courtly love, but he acts in accord with court's rules of love.
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