Lady Bertilak And The Green Knight Essay

Lady Bertilak And The Green Knight Essay

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While To His Coy Mistress and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight share very little in the way of genre and structure, the theme of seduction plays a prominent role in each poem. But in neither Marvell 's work nor the work of the anonymous Gawain poet is traditional, successful romance to be found; both seducers find themselves spurned, one in the name of knightly "chastity," the other under the guise of ladylike "coyness." Lady Bertilak and Marvell 's unnamed narrator do not pander and defer to their desired partners-- rather, the tactics employed in the two poems are negotiation and intimidation, the use of leverage and pressure. The exceedingly encroaching nature of the sexual solicitations of both aggressors offers the readers an uncomfortable glimpse at the dark, untraditional side of love and seduction.
In Marvell 's To His Coy Mistress, what begins as a worshipful, romantic declaration of love and adoration takes a menacing turn as it quickly transforms into a message that is far more disturbing. The unidentified speaker first addresses his "mistress" with the words "Had we but world enough, and time / This coyness, lady, were no crime," before launching into a description of the happiness and freedom they would enjoy together, the graciousness with which he would accept her coyness and the appropriately grand ways in which he would praise her astonishing beauty. With promises such as "An hundred years should go to praise / Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze," Marvell prepares the reader for a poem full of doting hyperbole. However, the direction of the poem is flipped on its head in the second verse, which begins with "But at my back I always hear / Time 's wingèd chariot hurrying near." Simply by using the word "but,...


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...of the poem, the reader himself is quite convinced, even seduced, by the writer 's unsettling but sound logic.
While some of the medieval tales we have read in this course, such as those written by Marie, depict love at first sight with sex and marriage coming mere moments later, Marvel and the Gawain author offer insight into examples of "courting" (if it can even be called that) that are far more disturbing, brutish, uncomfortably logical, and--- although the reader may be loath to admit it--- realistic. So perhaps this is how tales of seduction should be presented-- the instant, magical, blissful love formed between strangers in other works is not true seduction; seduction implies persuasion, resourcefulness, seduction is the art of breaking down the existing walls between potential lovers, and if there were no initial barriers, seduction would not be required.

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