Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Character Analysis

Sir Gawain, the nephew of King Arthur, is described by the unknown author of Gawain and the Green Knight as "the good knight" and "most courteous" (Norton, 204 & 215). Although young, Gawain understands the true meaning of chivalry and honor, therefore bases his lifestyle on the knightly Code of chivalry. This is exemplified through various tests that he faced, both with the Green Knight, and with the Knight's wife. If all knights were like Gawain, then the Round Table would be a much better place.

The first character test he is put to occurs when he faces the supernatural forces of the Green Knight during the New Year's celebration at Camelot. As the Round Table is faced with an extraordinary challenge, to swing at the stranger with an ax, Gawain bravely steps in for King Arthur when no one else is willing. He is fearful that Arthur will endure some great danger by partaking in the stranger's game, therefore he would rather subject himself to the danger and protect Arthur. He is able to save his lord from any possibility of jeopardy and his fellow knights of humiliation by jumping up from the dinner table and screaming:

"Would you grant me the grace,

To be gone from this bench and stand by you there,

If I without discourtesy might quit this board,...

When such a boon is begged before all these knights,

though you be tempted thereto, to take it on yourself

While so bold men about upon benches sit…

I am the weakest, well I know, and of wit feeblest;

And the loss of my life would be least of any;

That I have you for uncle is my only praise;

My body, but for your blood, is barren of worth;

And for that this folly befits not a king,

And 'tis I that have asked it, it ought to be mine,

And if my claim be not comely let all this court judge,

in sight." (Norton, 209)

This shows the respect that Gawain has for his king. He is a great knight, but he modestly says that "the loss of my life would be least of any." He knows that he is a great knight and is extremely important to the unity of the Round Table, but he would rather stay humble and retained than to call himself superior.

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