Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Essay

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Essay

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Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight, a poem of pitting chivalrous courage against a game of deceitful trickery, relies heavily on the symbolic messages its protagonists send through their apparel. The anonymous poet dedicates numerous lines to describing the artifacts of armor, clothing, and jewelry both characters display. Dress, designed to convey a multitude of concepts is crucial to the story's plot; the elements of garb also work in tandem to reaffirm specific personality traits. The dominant role and emphasis of apparel as portrayed by the poet is in part a logical extension of the medieval culture climate in which the poem was penned. Middle era society placed high value on cloth and textile in general, an attitude that is reflected in the poem, where the author places high value on its description and uses it to convey plot and personas. Concentrating on the description of the Green Knight when he first enters King Arthur's court and the description of Sir Gawaine's imminent departure on the quest to find the Green Knight, will show their distinct entities and the opposite roles they have assumed in the "beheading game", essential to the development of the story line. Furthermore, the poet also places emphasis on armor, particularly the shield Gawaine uses; an analysis of this will confirm that accouchements are valued as important vehicles to convey central theme in the plot. Finally, the green girdle, the piece of cloth that leads to the climax end of the poem, will be evaluated for its emblematic content.

"There [hurtled] in at the hall door an unknown rider," almost by deus es machina, a timely yet somewhat improbable occurrence, King Arthur's wished upon entertainment and Sir Gawaine's enemy appear in the text (Si...


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...raits. And secondly, it represents the Green Knight's power and skill at deception. The duality of the girdle is an extension of the duality of the Green Knight's persona. While the girdle represents freedom and life (it is green), it also represents destruction and finality. The same is said of the Green Knight who is a combination of fertility and destruction.

Written beautifully in the middle ages, the poem's elaborate descriptions of textiles such as clothing and armor, serve to emphasize the culture climate in which it was composed. The time dedicated to detail reflects the author's own societal values. Moreover, in a piece riddled with deceit and trickery, clothing is a tangible way to express character traits and add dimension to the plot. The story of Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight traverses from commencement to finality on a sea of symbolic trappings.

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