The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Essay

The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Essay

Length: 5394 words (15.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

In the Fourteenth Century, Feudalism and its offspring, chivalry, were in decline due to drastic social and economic changes. In this light, _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_ presents both a nostalgic support of the feudal hierarchies and an implicit criticism of changes, which, if left unchecked will lead to its ultimate destruction. I would suggest that the women in the story are the Gawain poet's primary instruments in this critique and reinforcement of Feudalism. By positioning The Virgin Mary (as the singular female archetype representing spiritual love, obedience, chastity, and life) against Morgan and Bertilak's wife (who represent the traditional female archetypes of courtly love, disobedience, lust and death) the Gawain poet points out the conflict between courtly love and spiritual love which he, and other critics of the time, felt had drastically weakened the religious values behind chivalry. As such, the poem is a warning to its Aristocratic readers that the traditional religious values underlying the feudal system must be upheld in order to avert destruction of their way of life.

It is easy to read _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_ as a romantic celebration of chivalry, but Ruth Hamilton believes that "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight contains a more wide-ranging, more serious criticism of chivalry than has heretofore been noticed" (113). Specifically, she feels that the poet is showing Gawain's reliance on chivalry's outside form and substance at the expense of the original values of the Christian religion from which it sprang. As she shows, "the first order of knights were monastic ones, who took vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity. The first duties th...


... middle of paper ...


...eties facing Arthur's Camelot--specifically women, magic, adultery, and incest--with Morgan representing a trope for all the ills.

Morgan, Gerald. "The Action of the Hunting and Bedroom Scenes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." Medium Aevum 56 (1987): 200-16.

Morgan argues that a moral struggle is suggested by the juxtaposition of the hunt scenes and the bedroom scenes, with the Lady in the role of the hunter and Gawain as the hunted.

Warner, Marina. Alone of all Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1976.

Warner's book details the special importance of the Virgin Mary throughout Christianity and explores her religious and secular meaning. She discusses such things as the Church's attitude toward virginity, the role model of the Virgin martyr, the Virgin's relics, and her role as an intercessor with God.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Role of Women in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight and The Wife of Bath’s Tale

- In the Middle Ages, the roles of women became less restricted and confined and women became more opinionated and vocal. Sir Gawain and The Green Knight presents Lady Bertilak, the wife of Sir Bertilak, as a woman who seems to possess some supernatural powers who seduces Sir Gawain, and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath Prologue and Tale, present women who are determined to have power and gain sovereignty over the men in their lives. The female characters are very openly sensual and honest about their wants and desires....   [tags: Role of Women in Middle Ages]

Powerful Essays
1648 words (4.7 pages)

The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight Essay

- The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight Sir Gawain and The Green Knight is an example of medieval misogyny. Throughout Medieval literature, specifically Arthurian legends like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the female characters, Guinevere, the Lady, and Morgan leFay are not portrayed as individuals but social constructs of what a woman should be. Guinevere plays a passive woman, a mere token of Arthur. The Lady is also a tool, but has an added role of temptress and adulteress. Morgan leFay is the ultimate conniving, manipulating, woman....   [tags: Medieval Literature Arthurian Legends]

Powerful Essays
1606 words (4.6 pages)

The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Essay

- The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight In the Fourteenth Century, Feudalism and its offspring, chivalry, were in decline due to drastic social and economic changes. In this light, _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_ presents both a nostalgic support of the feudal hierarchies and an implicit criticism of changes, which, if left unchecked will lead to its ultimate destruction. I would suggest that the women in the story are the Gawain poet's primary instruments in this critique and reinforcement of Feudalism....   [tags: Essays Papers]

Powerful Essays
5394 words (15.4 pages)

Essay Comparing the Role Models in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

- Role Models in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Excellence has always been a virtue revered by society. Writers throughout the ages have tried to capture the essence of excellence in their works, often in the form of a title character, who is the embodiment of perfection, encapsulating all the ideal traits necessary for one to be considered an excellent member of society. However, the standards for excellence are not universally agreed upon. On the contrary, one man's idea of excellence may very well be another's idea of mediocrity....   [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]

Powerful Essays
2249 words (6.4 pages)

Sir Gawain And The Green Knight: The Role Of Women Essay

- In the fourteenth century, chivalry was in decline due to drastic social and economic changes. Although feudalism-along with chivalry-would eventually fall for other reasons, including a decrease in cheap human resources due to a drop in population caused by plague epidemics and the emergence of a mercantile middle class, the Gawain author perceived a loss of religious values as the cause of its decline. Gawain and the Green Knight presents both a support of the old feudal hierarchies and an implicit criticism of changes by recalling chivalry in its idealized state in the court of King Arthur....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
2322 words (6.6 pages)

Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Essay

- 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....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Powerful Essays
1030 words (2.9 pages)

Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Essay

- In Gawain and the Green Knight, the narration shows a complex level of characteristics of Sir Gawain including what makes him the embodiment of a Christian man and how he 's also very much human. When he juxtaposed to the Green Knight, who 's the symbol of nature and the Pagan ideas, his character is shown through even more. Gawain is the paragon of what a Christian should be. He 's devoutly loyal to God and the Virgin Mary. He also keeps a picture of Mary on his shield to show his love for her, and even prays to her when he 's distressed about his encounter with the Green Knight....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Christianity]

Powerful Essays
1012 words (2.9 pages)

Analysis Of Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Essay

- Honor. What is honor. What does it truly mean to be honorable. What does it take to be honorable. Honor is a simple word that has many definitions. What is your definition of honor. For many years past, honor has been the foundation for what drove a man to be the best he could be and to do the best he could do. In English literature, many of the main characters were based off of the concept of honor. For example, in the literary works Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, the epic poem Beowulf, and the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, each main character’s ethics are determined by their way of perceiving what honor is....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf]

Powerful Essays
1050 words (3 pages)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Essay

- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Sir Gawain proves to be a hero and role model. Perhaps if Sir Gawain were living among us today, he would have his own line of action figures, comic books, and of course a line of chic evening wear. In lines 712 -762 in the Norton Anthology, we see that through dangerous foes and perilous weather, Sir Gawain leans on the strength of God to get him through his journey. Though he meets many dangers in the forest, he defeats them all, using skill and bravery. Traveling through horrid weather conditions, he keeps forging ahead, remaining true to his vow....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Powerful Essays
702 words (2 pages)

Individuation in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Essay

- Individuation in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Sir Gawain is, undoubtably, the most varied of the Arthurian characters: from his first minor appearance as Gwalchmei in the Welsh tales to his usually side-line participation in the modern retelling of the tales, no other character has gone from such exalted heights (being regarded as a paragon of virtue) to such dismal depths (being reduced to a borderline rapist, murderer, and uncouth bore), as he. This degree of metamorphosis in character, however, has allowed for a staggering number of different approaches and studies in Gawain....   [tags: Sir Gawain Green Knight Essays]

Powerful Essays
1833 words (5.2 pages)