19th February 2018
Chivalry in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight
The poem, Sir Gawain and The Green Knight offers elaborative descriptions of chivalry throughout its course as many other romances from the medieval age. The light tone of the story makes it much more interesting, because its fictitious and adds a mythical sense to it as evidenced by the satanic red-eyed Green Knight. As it also includes Sir Gawain’s chivalrous nature as a knight in the courts. Additionally, the poem finishes with a happy ending. All of which are characteristic to a chivalrous story.
One of the main chivalrous characteristics of this poem is that it contains elements of supernatural. The Green Knight is one of the important supernatural characters in this poem. His otherworldly features are described as “entirely emerald green” (line 150) and “a half giant” (line 140). “Gawain grips the axe and heaves it heavenwards, plants it…the handsome head tumbles onto the earth…reaches at their feet and cops hold of his head … or be called a coward forever” (lines 452-456). He is a man of magic and could very well be immortal. When Sir Gawain strikes him by the neck, slicing his head off, the Green Knight simply picks his head up and starts talking through the “head still in hand” (line 458). He could also disguise himself as a human which he did when he appeared before Sir Gawain as Lord Bercilak. Another supernatural character in this poem would be Morgana le Fay (a witch) who is the propagator of Sir Gawain’s quest and trials. “She sent me to your splendid hall…to have terrified Guenevere and caused her to die with horror…his hand before high table.” Lines 2456-2462. In order to test the truth of the fame of Gawain and other knights of the Round Table and to frighten Guenevere, she sent the Green Knight on his journey to Camelot and issue them the challenge.
Sir Gawain, the protagonist depicts the knight’s code of chivalry in various ways throughout the poem. The beginning of his chivalrous nature comes to surface when he bravely takes up the Green Knight’s challenge in place of King Arthur. “By Guinevere, Gawain now to his king inclines and says, I stake my claim. This moment must be mine.” Lines 339-342. No other knight in the court comes forward to accept the challenge even after the Green Knight mocks them for their incompetence. Lines 309-315. The bravery at this moment shown by Sir Gawain in order to maintain the pride and honor of his king and court by stepping up, is one of the traits of code of chivalry of the knights. Sir Gawain’s humble nature also adds to the chivalrous theme of the poem as he admits to King Arthur that he is the “weakest of” the “warriors and feeblest of wit” and that if he were to die he would be “grieved the least.” Line 354. The only reason he holds any honor in the court is because he is king Arthur’s nephew. “Were I not your nephew my life would mean nothing.” Line 356. Therefore,...