Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Length: 1307 words (3.7 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Character Analysis

Sir Gawain, the nephew of King Arthur, is described by the unknown author of Gawain and the Green Knight as "the good knight" and "most courteous" (Norton, 204 & 215). Although young, Gawain understands the true meaning of chivalry and honor, therefore bases his lifestyle on the knightly Code of chivalry. This is exemplified through various tests that he faced, both with the Green Knight, and with the Knight's wife. If all knights were like Gawain, then the Round Table would be a much better place.

The first character test he is put to occurs when he faces the supernatural forces of the Green Knight during the New Year's celebration at Camelot. As the Round Table is faced with an extraordinary challenge, to swing at the stranger with an ax, Gawain bravely steps in for King Arthur when no one else is willing. He is fearful that Arthur will endure some great danger by partaking in the stranger's game, therefore he would rather subject himself to the danger and protect Arthur. He is able to save his lord from any possibility of jeopardy and his fellow knights of humiliation by jumping up from the dinner table and screaming:

"Would you grant me the grace,
To be gone from this bench and stand by you there,
If I without discourtesy might quit this board,...
When such a boon is begged before all these knights,
though you be tempted thereto, to take it on yourself
While so bold men about upon benches sit…
I am the weakest, well I know, and of wit feeblest;
And the loss of my life would be least of any;
That I have you for uncle is my only praise;
My body, but for your blood, is barren of worth;
And for that this folly befits not a king,
And 'tis I that have asked it, it ought to be mine,
And if my claim be not comely let all this court judge,
in sight." (Norton, 209)

This shows the respect that Gawain has for his king. He is a great knight, but he modestly says that "the loss of my life would be least of any." He knows that he is a great knight and is extremely important to the unity of the Round Table, but he would rather stay humble and retained than to call himself superior.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." 25 Feb 2020

Need Writing Help?

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

Check your paper »

Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Essays

- Concerns over the medieval people’s ability to faithfully endorse Christianity were echoed in medieval texts through Sir Gawain’s search for redemption. People were expected to demonstrate their unmoved faith, especially since the Church played a significant role in their lives. Sir Gawain embodies the impeccable role as an endorser of chivalry to inspire other knights which allow for open discussion about his flaws to ease iron-clad expectations. Sir Gawain is presented with a call to action in both Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale” in The Canterbury Tales which is delegated by higher powers....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Research Papers
1321 words (3.8 pages)

Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Essay

- Knightly Character The poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, tells of one knights struggle to uphold the code of chivalry. What makes a knight a noble knight. Why does this social standard force us to hold this individual to higher expectations. What should we think about Sir Gawain when he breaks his vows in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. How does Sir Gawain and Arthur’s court pass the test of The Green Knight. This paper will argue that Sir Gawain, despite his mistakes, is the greatest knight because of his repentance and the lesson he learns when he encounters The Green Knight....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Research Papers
1125 words (3.2 pages)

Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Essay examples

- Throughout the world, intriguing stories manifest within the minds of creative writers. One story that often captives the attention of many scholar’s would have to be “Sir Gawain the Green Knight,” which has been translated by J.R.R. Tolkien. During the epic poem, the reader travels to a time where chivalry is the way society functions morally and socially for the noble class. Although the setting of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is during medieval times, the primary focus is placed on the qualities of knighthood....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Research Papers
782 words (2.2 pages)

Essay about Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the story of a knight of Arthur’s round table who unbeknownst to him begins a supernatural game that will test his commitment to the chivalric code. The story written sometime around 1400 is an example of a medieval romance with a noble knight venturing forth to maintain the honor of himself and his court. Knights are supposed to be examples of chivalry and since chivalry is largely based upon the church, these same men must be examples for other Christians. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, while entertaining, also teaches readers one of the hardest lessons of Christianity, that to give into the temptations of this world is the one of the shortest ways to d...   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Research Papers
1082 words (3.1 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)

The Character of the Green Knight in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Essay

- The Character of the Green Knight in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight In the most general sense, the Green Knight is an anomaly to the story of " Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," the only supernatural element in what is otherwise a very believable and wholly real rendering of a specific length of time. Gawain is momentarily tricked into believing‹or, rather, hoping‹that the garter is magical in nature, but both his fear and the Green Knight dispel him of that heathen notion. Thus on the one hand the poet warns us of the danger of accepting the supernatural qua supernatural, while on the other he demands that we understand the Green Knight to be an expression of the "power of Morgan...   [tags: Sir Gawain Green Knight Essays]

Research Papers
698 words (2 pages)

Essay on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Lines 1372-1453 from The Norton Anthology of English Literature Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written in the fourteenth century by an anonymous poet who was a contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer. The story was originally written in a Northern dialect. It tells the story of Sir Gawain's first adventure as a knight. This section of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight pertains to the agreement between Bercilak de Hautdesert, the host, and Gawain. Bercilak is to go hunting in the morning, while Gawain sleeps....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Free Essays
476 words (1.4 pages)

Essay on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - lines 491-565 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the greatest 14th century text. The poem is made up of two stories, one (the testing at Bercilak's castle) set inside the other (the beheading of the Green Knight at the beginning and the return blow at the end). The unknown author describes in the poem adventure of the brave and courageous Sir Gawain who challenges the Green Knight. The passage that starts Part II of the poem illustrates the feast given to honor Sir Gawain for his bravery and courage after he meets the first challenge of the Green Knight....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Free Essays
436 words (1.2 pages)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Essay

- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the greatest fourteenth century text. It was written by an unknown author between 1375 and 1400. The story begins at Christmas time, and there are many symbolic elements. The Green Knight is a color which symbolizes Christmas. Also, changing seasons and the coming of winter symbolize the passing of life and reminds us that Death is unavoidable. The author also skillfully illustrates human weaknesses in the descriptions of Gawain's temptations....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Free Essays
665 words (1.9 pages)

Essay about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Nothing is known about the author who wrote the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Yet it is considered one of the greatest works from the Middle English era. It tells a tale of a mysterious and magical figure (The Green Knight) who presents a challenge to the pride and wealth of Arthur's kingdom. Sir Gawain accepts the challenge. However, the real test of the Green Knight isn't about strength or swordsmanship. It's a test of character. During Christmas at Camelot, the celebration is interrupted by the entrance of the Green Knight....   [tags: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight]

Research Papers
656 words (1.9 pages)

Related Searches

Gawain then finds himself in a whole new world of trouble when the Green Knight picked up his own decapitated head and continued his conversation as if nothing had happened. Never the less, Gawain followed through with his promise to meet with the stranger, despite his fears. The rest of the court pleads for him to stay, but Gawain bravely replies, "Why should I tarry? In destinies sad or merry, true men can but try." (Norton, p.214) Although bravery is not noted as Gawain's best characteristic, he is truly the bravest of them.

Gawain's ethics are thoroughly tested when he had to face the eroticism of Bercilak's wife when visiting the castle in the woods. He is presented with many opportunities to have an affair with the woman who was basically throwing herself at Gawain, by lustfully saying, "My body is here at hand, your each wish to fulfill; your servant to command I am, and shall be still." (Norton, p. 228) Although his policy is to try to please everyone as much as possible, especially the women, he chooses to stay focused in his actions and what he was there for. He is too concerned with the upcoming battle with the Green Knight to even acknowledge the wife's advancements. Even if he hadn't been extremely worried about facing the Green Knight, all the morals that have been instilled in him would have prevented him from committing the adulterous act. He does allow her to kiss him, but that is only because she is the woman in charge, and he is trying to respect her and her wishes. Both of these challenges of ethics Sir Gawain passes with flying colors and each time throughout his life he faces a difficult situation he gains more respect and honor than he had before. The tasks that he accomplishes prove once more the true attitude of the chivalrous knight.

Sir Gawain is a hero in not only this poem but in all the other stories about him. In the Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell, Gawain acts in a most courteous, chivalric manner. He is unquestionable when King Arthur approaches him with the dilemma of trying to find what it is that all women most desire. Gawain is not one to complain or whine that it is a stupid request. Rather, he immediately offers himself by saying:

"Ye, Sir, make good chere;
Let make your hors redy
To ride into straunge contrey;
And evere wheras ye mete outher man or woman, in faye,
Ask of theim whate they therto saye.
And I shalle also ride anoder waye
And enquere of every man and woman and get what I may
Of every man and womans answere;
And in a boke I shalle theim write." (Burlesque & Grotesquerie, p. 330)

Gawain has no problems setting aside nearly a year of his life to helping Arthur with his quest for the knowledge of what women want. That is a very good example of honor and respect. But, the finest showing of Gawain's love for his lord comes when Arthur asks Gawain to marry the hag, Dame Ragnell. Gawain's response is exquisite:

"I wolle wed her at whate time ye wolle set;
I pray you make no care.
For and she were the most foulist wighte
That evere men mighte see with sighte,
For your love I wolle not spare." (Burlesque & Grotesquerie, p. 335)

Gawain is saying that it doesn't matter how foul and ugly this woman is, as long as Arthur needs him to do this, he will keep his word due to his love for his lord.

The last priceless example of Gawain's chivalry is demonstrated when she offers him the choice of being beautiful by day and foul by night, or vice-versa. Some men would have their opinions armed are ready to voice in this manner. Gawain chooses to handle this situation alternatively. By abiding to the lesson that he and Arthur learned earlier, Gawain can only reply:

"Alas! The choise is hard.
To chese the best it is froward.
Wheder choise that I chese,
To have you faire on nightes and no more,
That wold greve my hart righte sore
And my worship shold I lese.
And if I desire on days to have you faire,
Then on nightes I shold have a simple repaire.
Now fain wold I chose the best,
I ne wot in this world what I shall saye,
But do as ye lest nowe, my lady gaye.
The choise I put in your fist.
Evin as ye wolle, I put it in your hand,
Lose me when ye list, for I am bond.
I put the choise in you.
Bothe body and goddes, hart, and every dele,
Is alle your own, for to by and selle--
That make I God avowe!" (Burlesque & Grotesquerie, 342-343)

By giving the choice to the foul hag, he is yielding to her and therefore demonstrating his chivalry. Truth, honor and respect are what Gawain is all about, and in every one of his actions. In this case, his actions have earned the beauty from his wife during both the night and day.

Works Cited

Anonymous. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The Norton Anthology of English Literature Sixth Edition. Volume 1. Ed. M.H.Abrams. New York: W.W.Norton and Company, Inc., 1993.

Gautier, Leon. Chivalry, The Everyday Life of the Medieval Knight. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1989.

Ogden, Erin. Gawain Page.; 4/22/98.
Return to