Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written by an anonymous fourteenth-century poet in Northern dialect, combines two plots: "the beheading contest, in which two parties agree to an exchange of the blows with a sword or ax, and the temptation, an attempted seduction of the hero by a lady" (Norton p.200). The Green Knight, depicted as a green giant with supernatural powers, disrespectfully rides into King Arthur's court and challenges the king to a Christmas game -- a beheading contest. Sir Gawain, a young, brave and loyal knight of the Round Table, acting according to the chivalric code, takes over the challenge his lord has accepted. The contest states that Sir Gawain is to chop off the Green Knight's head, and in one year and a day, the antagonist is to do the same to the hero. The whole poem is constructed in a way that leads the reader through the challenges that Sir Gawain faces -- the tests for honesty, courtesy, truthfulness. Throughout, we see his inner strength to resist the temptations.
Lines 566 through 634 portray the hero as he dresses up and gets ready to go to find the Green Knight on November first, almost a year after the beheading contest in the king Arthur's court. Remembering the beheaded Green Knight on the horse with his head under his arm, King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table try to talk Sir Gawain out of going on this dangerous and, possibly last, mission, but the hero, keeping his part of the bargain, acts as the true and honorable knight should act: he goes to find the villain.
The first stanza depicts the protagonist who orders his armor to be brought to him. A rare and expensive car...
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...im to bear his shame. The passage from lines 566 to 634 brings forth the idea of truth, from which the rest of the poem's action evolves; it remains the central concern of the adventures and of the poem itself. As Sir Gawain leaves Camelot to search for the Green Knight, he sets on the quest to "retain his self-respect as a virtuous and religious knight" (Stone), which gives the poem its "final and only discernible shape" (Stone).
The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Sixth Edition Volume1. Ed. M.H.Abrams. New York: W.W.Norton and Company, Inc., 1993.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Second Edition. Translated with an introduction by Brian Stone. New York: Penguin Books, 1974.
The Middle English text was obtained from the following website.Online Internet. April 9 1999. Available http://library.utoronto.ca/www/utel/rp/poems/sggk.html
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