Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Passage Analysis of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

In this passage, we find ourselves in King Arthur's court during a Christmas feast. A Green Knight has just proposed a challenge before the court, a game in which a blow for a blow shall be given. Seeing that no one is willing to accept this challenge, King Arthur himself steps up to the Green Knight, ready to defend his honor. Sir Gawain, being a noble knight, asks the court if he can replace King Arthur in the game. His wish is granted.

The passage begins as King Arthur calls Sir Gawain to his side to give him his weapon and blessing. As Gawain kneels before his lord, King Arthur says: "Keep, cousin what you cut with this day, and if you rule it aright, then readily, I know, you shall stand the stroke it will strike after." (Norton p. 210) With these words King Arthur implies that since Sir Gawain has the first hit, he has nothing to worry about, since the Green Knight will be dead and unable to return the blow.

The Green Knight asks Gawain to go over the terms of the game and asks to know his name. Gawain replies: "In good faith, Gawain am I whose buffet befalls you, what'er betide after, and at this time twelvemonth take from you another with what weapon you will, and with no man else alive." ( Norton p. 210 ) In this statement Gawain not only asserts himself but also makes sure that if he kills the Green Knight with his blow, no one shall take his place.

Satisfied with that answer, the Green Knight reminds Sir Gawain that he must find him on his own, as promised before the court. However when Gawain asks the Green Knight where his home could be found, the Green Knight delays his answer, saying that Gawain will know soon enough after the blow where to find him. Not finding out the true identity of the Green Knight may be Gawain's first mistake. It is always important to know your enemies, especially when a very big, very green knight, who comes out of nowhere, presents one with a challenge.

Having resolved the terms of the agreement, the Green Knight gets ready for the blow by kneeling down and moving his long green hair away from his neck. Gawain skillfully grips the ax and strikes the Green Knight with all his might, cutting through the flesh with such force that the blade ends up in the ground.

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