Sir Gawain is presented as a noble knight who is the epitome of chivalry; he is loyal, honest and above all, courteous. He is the perfect knight; he is so recognised by the various characters in the story and, for all his modesty, implicitly in his view of himself. To the others his greatest qualities are his knightly courtesy and his success in battle. To Gawain these are important, but he seems to set an even higher value on his courage and integrity, the two central pillars of his manhood.
Despite its divine origins, the chivalric code is ultimately a human ideal. Chivalry is not a trait naturally found in man, but rather a concept constructed by humanity in its pursuit for Christ-like perfection. It has even been suggested that chivalry is at odds with the nature of man. Despite the weakness of his human nature, however, Sir Gawain is expected to maintain the chivalric code, and he must depend on his faith in God in order to do so. In “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” the chivalric code - or rather, the human ability to abide by it - is challenged by nature in a number of different ways.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th Edition, Vol. 1 Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2000. pp. 156-210.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the greatest fourteenth century text. It was written by an unknown author between 1375 and 1400. The story begins at Christmas time, and there are many symbolic elements. The Green Knight is a color which symbolizes Christmas. Also, changing seasons and the coming of winter symbolize the passing of life and reminds us that Death is unavoidable. The author also skillfully illustrates human weaknesses in the descriptions of Gawain's temptations.
The Green Knight was described as a handsome, muscular man. Because every article of clothing the Green Knight wore was green, including his skin and hair, he is reminiscent of a fertility god. This idea of a fertility god plays a role when introducing the theme of temptation on the behalf of the Lord’s wife...
Sir Gawain’s inner ideals and character are adequately tested and thoroughly defined throughout the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. During the course of his journey, Gawain was not only expected to maintain his honor to King Author, Lord Bertilak, Lady Bertilak, and the Green Knight, but was expected to maintain it while still loyally adhering to his chivalric and religious obligations. As a knight, it is important that he is loyal first and foremost to his God and religion just as importantly to his king. However, on his journey, Sir Gawain does not entirely live up to the integrity of a good knight as he struggles with conflicting values between his faith and knighthood. Although his honor appears to be questionable at times, Gawain’s nobility and bravery are shown in his compliance to face the Green Knight while withstanding the temptations and seduction of the lady, proving that he is truly an honorable knight.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is about a Green Knight, a figure that many consider to be an immortal, who challenges Arthur’s court. Sir Gawain, the most courageous and noble knight of the court, accepts the Green Knight’s challenge for the sake of King Arthur’s reputation. Believing that he is acting on behalf of the king, Sir Gawain does not know that it is really a test of his own chivalry. The following passage that I will analyze introduces and describes the Green Knight. Here, I will talk about the importance of the knight’s attitude, size, and his greenish color. All these are significant elements, as you will see, that help to demonstrate his condemnation of the court.
Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, by the Pearl Poet, begins as a story about King Arthur’s court and The Knights of the Round Table, but soon transforms into a story of love, temptation, and power. The story starts with an image of the court and a giant green stranger comes in and challenges the group of men and the king stepped up at the same time giving his life away. To save the royal King, Sir Gawain offers to take the challenge from the King and risk his own life, the rest of the story is a tale of one knight fighting to sustain his chivalrous code and the author paints a vivid picture of his high stature and respect. Sir Gawain positively represents the chivalry and high recognition of King Arthur’s Court.
The story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight revolves around the knights and their chivalry as well as their romance through courtly love. The era in which this story takes place is male-dominated, where the men are supposed to be brave and honorable. On the other hand, the knight is also to court a lady and to follow her commands. Sir Gawain comes to conflict when he finds himself needing to balance the two by being honorable to chivalry as well as respectful to courtly love.
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.
In Gordon M. Shedd’s “Knight in Tarnished Armour: The Meaning of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, he argues that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is truly about the strength and weaknesses of human nature. One particularly interesting part of his argument asserts that Gawain’s humanity broke medieval romance tradition.
Sir Gawain and The Green Knight has prompted scholars to examine and diversely interpret the medieval narrative. One of the underlying questions that has been proposed embodies the analysis of the relationship between Christian and Pagan ideals and how knightly chivalry is influenced by religion during the Arthurian Romance period. It is no mistake that the two varied religious ideals are intertwined throughout the poem due to the nature of classical antiquity. Amidst the overlap between superstitious rituals and Orthodox- Christian beliefs it is clear that Sir Gawain has a sense of personal integrity guided by a moral compass.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the story of a knight of Arthur’s round table who unbeknownst to him begins a supernatural game that will test his commitment to the chivalric code. The story written sometime around 1400 is an example of a medieval romance with a noble knight venturing forth to maintain the honor of himself and his court. Knights are supposed to be examples of chivalry and since chivalry is largely based upon the church, these same men must be examples for other Christians. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, while entertaining, also teaches readers one of the hardest lessons of Christianity, that to give into the temptations of this world is the one of the shortest ways to death.
In the final scenes of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain’s encounter with Sir Bertilak allows Gawain to perceive his own flaws, manifested in his acceptance of the Green Girdle. The court’s reaction to his personal guilt highlights the disconnect between him and the other knights of the Round Table. Gawain’s behavior throughout the poem has been most noteworthy; his understanding of his sin, one that many of us would dismiss since it was propelled by his love of life, enhances his stature as a paragon of chivalry.