Three Arthurian Misfits of Gawain and the Green Knight

Three Arthurian Misfits of Gawain and the Green Knight

Length: 1552 words (4.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Three Arthurian Misfits of Gawain and the Green Knight

"Hevys hys handys one heghte, and to the hevene lokes:
'Qwhythene hade Dryghttyne destaynede at his dere wille
That he hade demyd me todaye to dy for yow alle.'" p. 264

Awholly determined and brave commitment, mouthed by a gracious king. The Gawain poet, however approaches Arthur much differently in his tale. In stanza five, he describes the hot-blooded nature of the king, who makes rash demands as a rule before eating. Stanza twelve shows us a king who is overwhelmed in speech by the Green Knight, and who seems to have ignored the challenger's statement of peace completely. Finally, the court is utterly ridiculed, to a point at which Arthur accepts the challenge rashly in stanza fifteen, akin to a child taking a swing at another after so much urging. The usual grace and courtesy with which King Arthur is usually endowed is clearly subverted by these stanzas in Gawain and the Green Knight, seemingly to no purpose other than comedy. Here we shall discuss the elements of the three stanzas described above, with their uncharacterisitic treatment of Arthur, and take a deeper look into their purpose within the poem.

Stanza five elaborates on Arthur's desire to hear a marvelous tale before he joins in the feast. He appears to stand - "He stightles stif in stalle;" (104) he is not seated at the head of the feasting table, next to Guinevere as he should be. Instead, he is ready to listen to a tale "Of alderes, of armes, of other aventurus;" (95) or joust with a challenging knight - with the risk of losing his life. The wish of the king for deadly sport seems inappropriate in the Christmas setting of the poem, possibly even irreverent in light of the religious aspects of the holiday. Though the king's demands are childish or "child-gered" (86), he sets the scene for the appearance of the Green Knight, which effectively fulfills the request as Arthur "that aventure byholdes" (250) in stanza twelve.

The impression of Arthur delivered by the poet is not a dauntless, seasoned leader, but an impatient, belligerent boy. We already know of his strange pre-dining antics, and we are also told that, "His lif liked hym lyght, he lovied the lasse | Auther too longe lye or too longe sitte," (87-88). He is too restless to stay lying or sitting for long, and thus he stands at the the end of the stanza.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Three Arthurian Misfits of Gawain and the Green Knight." 123HelpMe.com. 08 Dec 2019
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=42168>.

Need Writing Help?

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

Check your paper »

Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Essay

- The novel/poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, is the story that begins the Arthurian Courts. During the Christmas festivities, a strange Green Knight enters wanting to play a game with the men personified as the most chivalrous men. Sir Gawain volunteers in the place of King Arthur in this treacherous game. In the game, Gawain beheads the Green Knight but surprisingly the Knight fails to die but instead lives with his head cut off. The Knight places a quest on Gawain that before the New Year he must travel to the Green Chapel to complete the quest....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Research Papers
1307 words (3.7 pages)

Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Essay

- The Arthurian romance, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, follows the fictional medieval life of a knight of the king’s round table. This tale is set in a time when the court is youthful, known throughout the land of Camelot, for their great honor. The protagonist, Sir Gawain, adherence to the knight’s code of conduct will be tested through a yearlong journey. This code of conduct involves the knights being chivalrous Christian men. The theme of chivalry interweaves though the tale as Sir Gawain undergoes a test to prove his worthiness to the court through a game, he is accompanied by Christian elements that strengthen him on the journey, while different interpretations of the round table’s kn...   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Research Papers
1159 words (3.3 pages)

Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Essay

- “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight”: The Ultimate Test “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight” is a poem classified under the genre of Arthurian Romance. An in-depth analysis of lines 1208-1240 would certainly outline the importance of this specific passage as it is vital to the entirety of the poem for if these lines were omitted, the story would be lacking and many events would be unexplained. As this passage focuses on Gawain and the lady, one can assume that the text will highlight specific characteristics solely linked to these characters....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Research Papers
1045 words (3 pages)

Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Essay

- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the epic poems that was based on the epic heroes of Troy and it was written based on the Arthurian tradition. Although it has been translated by several authors, the version that I came across with was translated by Simon Armitage in the late fourteenth century. This poem had many upcoming challenges and one of the main challenges that was very significant was the proposal of the strange Green Knight. “The green knight’s proposal to endure a decapitating stroke in return for the chance to deal one himself appears to subvert the tenets of courtly civility and of Christian fellowship” (Martin pg.1)....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Research Papers
1596 words (4.6 pages)

Essay about Analysis Of Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

- Across different tales of male heroism and chivalric bravery dating back to the 14th century, chivalric literature has been centered on a hero who sets off to conquer a task but is then encumbered by several games and tests. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is no exception, by matter of fact; it is even a prime example of such a tale. In each specific story, these games and tests all serve different purposes, whether to prove the protagonist’s worth as a hero or to serve as some sort of plot filler....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Research Papers
1138 words (3.3 pages)

Analysis Of Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Essay

- In many ways, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a poem constructed from various binary oppositions, all encompassed within the genre of the medieval romance. These oppositions, however, are not always as polarised as might be initially expected. This is certainly the case with the relationship between civilisation and the wild, whose continual juxtaposition often allows for the distinction between the two to become blurred. This essay will explore the difference between the topographical wild – that is, the wilderness – and civilisation, demonstrating that the two are not as different as they immediately appear to both reader and protagonist....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Research Papers
1731 words (4.9 pages)

Essay on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Gawain Finds The Green Knight's Castle PASSAGE ANALYSIS LINES 763-841 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an Arthurian story about the first adventure of Sir Gawain (King Arthur's nephew). The author and date of this romance are not exactly known but may be dated circa 1375-1400, because the author seems to be a contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer. From the very start of the story, the author gives a grand introduction for Arthur and his court, and then Arthur's men are described as "bold boys" (line 21) which means that they are brave, but only boys....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Free Essays
1356 words (3.9 pages)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Essay

- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a story full of tests and inner challenges, was written by an unknown author somewhere in the late 14th century. The poem begins the same as it ends: with the mentioning of the fall of Troy. After the fall of Troy, the Trojan survivors ventured to Europe where each began a new kingdom. "Ticius to Tuscany, and towers raises, Langobard in Lombardy lays out homes, and far over the French Sea, Felix Brutus on many broad hills and high Britain he sets, most fair." (Norton p....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Free Essays
547 words (1.6 pages)

Essay about Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

- Sir Gawain and The Green Knight Summary The story begins in King Arthur's court, where he and the Knights of the Round Table are celebrating New Year's. While they are enjoying their feast, a gigantic Green Knight rides in on a green horse with an immense axe in his hand to offer them a challenge. His offer is: "I shall bide the fist blow, as bare as I sit…….., but in twelve month and one day he shall have of me the same." (Norton Anthology,208) After a moment of consideration, Sir Gawain accepts the terrifying challenge....   [tags: Sir Gawain Green Knight Essays]

Research Papers
1614 words (4.6 pages)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Essay

- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written by an anonymous author some time during the fourteenth century, reflects many of the religious, political and social aspects illustrated in other literary works of the time. The author, a contemporary of Chaucer, lived during a time when gallantry, loyalty and honor defined a true man. During this period, Christianity was prevalent, and inherent human weakness was commonly accepted. The author begins the poem with the mention of the siege and destruction of Troy, said to be a result of the traitorous acts of the "knight that had knotted the nets of deceit" (Norton 3), Aeneas....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Literature Essa]

Research Papers
1079 words (3.1 pages)

Related Searches

His blood is described as young, his brain wild - how can this portrayal be correct if he is to have Gawain in his company, his nephew of age enough to behead a giant? The image of Arthur is now skewed; he is not a young man, yet his mannerisms are dismissed as a product of youthfulness. Stanza twelve claims Arthur to be bold before the Green Knight, "for rad was he never" (251). Perhaps he is not afraid, but his answer is not in the form one might expect from a king..., "Wyghe, welcum i-wys" (252) sounds more like a surprised greeting than an identification of himself as the master of the court. Arthur calls his court a "ostel" (253), which we shall presume to mean the modern english word, hostel. A hostel is hardly a place for revelry and riches; it is a transitory place for youths, and usually quite barren excepting the essentials. Arthur's chosen word here is ultimately unsuitable considering the magnificence of the feast and decorum about him. He certainly doesn't come across as an authoritative superior in his own domain, and so the Green Knight continues in his speech, dominating all within the scene. Arthur's impatience is underscored by his answer to the Green Knight's words of peace in stanza twelve; he responds with slight animosity, declaring that his court would not decline to fight an unarmed challenger (though the mysterious knight has just explained his holly branch in detail). It appears Arthur has not even listened to what the Green Knight has said, and his reply is hardly noble - a courteous knight would never assault an unarmed victim. With this notion in mind, the proposal of the game is a further insult to the court, for anyone who takes on the challenge will attempt to slay an unarmed man. Perhaps this is the reason the court remains silent in response to the challenge, and the silence merely prompts the Green Knight to begin a slew of insults upon Arthur's court in stanza fourteen.

Arthur's reaction to the slanderous words of the Green Knight is comparable to a fish taking bait; Arthur's image encompasses virtue, courtesy, and knightly honor, yet he can be tempted into foolish games with a few taunting words. Perhaps a step back from the verse itself is in order here, for a parallel situation is being illustrated silently by the author of the poem. The entire kingdom is doomed by its own pride, this Christmas game being a metaphor for its downfall. The famous king who upholds the chivalric ideals is taunted by the Green Knight, representative of the evils of overconfidence, gives in to embarassment and its resulting anger. The story goes on, nevertheless, as Gawain steps in to take the fall instead.

Arthur's uncharacteristic rage in stanza fifteen demonstrates his failure to live up to the "kydde cortaysye" (263) spoken of in stanza twelve. He has attempted thus far to remain dignified in his reception of the brutish Green Knight, but his pride has been so insulted that he must take action to defend the court's reputation. In previous stanzas, Arthur's movements have been described only minimally, whereas now we are exposed to the detail of motion more consistent with the Green Knight; Arthur leaps toward the Knight, grabs the axe and grips it harshly, sternly thinking to strike with it. In defying the challenger, Arthur seems to have stooped to the giant's level of speech, swearing "by heven" (323), "by Godes halve" (326), throwing out insults, "thou foly has frayst," (324) and boasts of "I schal baythen thy bone" (327). He then leaps forward and takes up the axe, the Green Knight "feersly" lighting upon foot (not alighting graciously, as Arthur asked). Larry Benson describes the effect perfectly:

"The courteous Arthur, who was never before "rad,"
has given way to "la fretta | que l'onestade ad ogni
atto dismagha" [the rashness | which deprives every
act of its dignity. Purgatio, III, 10-11]." (p. 305)

Gawain's interruption of Arthur at this point saves the king the indignity of his intended act, and the king's readiness to be relieved emphasizes the wrongness of the situation. This scene, however, parallels the beheading at the end of the story, where Gawain will have no one standing by to save him from abandonment of courtesy.

Arthur's harsh reaction to the Green Knight is demonstrated by more attention to his physical motions and his angered speech. The Green Knight at the moment of Arthur's rage becomes calm, subdued, and voiceless...as if the two personalities had crossed. The concept of the Green Knight being the complementary part of Gawain, presented in class, seems to be paralleled in this stanza, but in a different manner than Gawain's pairing. Arthur becomes Gawain's complement instead of the Green Knight at this moment, a situation which Gawain rejects by intercepting the game.

Each of the three stanzas plucked from the story of Gawain and the Green Knight contain elements that seem unfit for an Arthurian tale. Stanza five gives readers an impressive of an unsatisfied young boy, who makes ridiculous rules for himself regarding dining, and who has an over-abundance of physical energy. Arthur's request to hear of a marvel before eating, however, foreshadows the magnitude of the event about to occur shortly, the arrival of the Green Knight. Because of Arthur's dislike to "Auther too longe lye or too longe sitte," (88) he avoids being directly assaulted by the Green Knight's challenge before the court has a chance to take him in. As the Green Knight delivers his speech, "And here is kydde cortaysye, as I haf herd carp," (263) the poor reaction of the courtiers confirms that the court's fame is based more on words than deeds. The rude manners of the challenger become reflected in Arthur's reception of him, and tension rises over the validity of the court's reputation. With no one to speak for him, Arthur is forced to take up the action himself in stanza fifteen, now quite enraged by the insults of the Green Knight. None of these stanzas could be omitted from the poem without great loss - stanza twelve describes the theme that will reoccur through the entire work: can Arthur's court fulfill its reputation of bravery and courtesy? In general, Arthur's character seems to be shown here as more human than legendary, his emotions in reactions to certain situations being what many would consider normal. To interpret the strange representation of Arthur as comic, we must also see the ending parallel of Arthur as comic as well, thus lifting the seriousness of Gawain's failure, though not altogether forgetting it.

FOOTNOTES:

Larry D. Benson, The Meaning of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight printed in Critical Studies of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968), p. 304.
Return to 123HelpMe.com