Sir Gawain Essay

988 words - 4 pages

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Gawain, a knight of the famed King Arthur, is depicted as the most noble of knights in the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Nonetheless, he is not without fault or punishment, and is certainly susceptible to conflict. Gawain, bound to chivalry, is torn between his knightly edicts, his courtly obligations, and his mortal thoughts of self-preservation. This conflict is most evident in his failure of the tests presented to him. With devious tests of temptation and courage, Morgan le Fay is able to create a mockery of Gawain’s courtly and knightly ideals. Through the knight Gawain, the poem is able to reveal that even knights are human too with less than romantic traits.
In order to satirize Gawain's courtly ways, the poet must first establish the presence of perfect chivalric code in Gawain, only to later mock that sense of perfection with failure. This establishment of chivalric code is created in part through the expression used to describe Gawain throughout the poem. He is described as "noble" and "goodly" on more than one occasion, giving the reader a positive understanding of the poem's hero (405, 685). This courtly view of Gawain is further expresses by his noble acceptance of the Green Knight's beheading game, in order to "release the king outright" from his responsibility (365). Gawain was the first to accept the Green Knight's terms. His acceptance of the beheading game before any other person brings the assumption that Gawain represents the most noble of Arthur's court. Lastly, even the Green Knight compares him to other knights as "pearls to white peas" (2364), a sign of his higher status among men.
By portraying Gawain as noble and honorable, the poet is able to shock the reader with actions that are uncharacteristic of a chivalrous knight. The first of these conflicting actions is obvious in the temptation of Gawain by his host's lady. This lady, the huntress, seeks to pursue Gawain in order to fool him into actions that contrast the knightly ideal. She will do anything to accomplish these actions in him, even through sexual temptations. With another man's wife pursuing him, Gawain must be courtly to the lady, but at the same time must deny her advances. This unavoidable conflict creates a fear within Gawain. Upon discovering that the lovely lady was approaching him in bed, Gawain lays a sleep, in order to "try her intent" (1199). This action reveals Gawain's fear that his host's lady is pursuing him. This unavoidable fear causes his failure of courtliness, for Gawain would have claimed a kiss from the lady, but did not. The lady ridicules him for this, even though, the situation was unavoidable. Gawain must abide by his morals and abstain from immoral thoughts, while at the same time being a courteous guest. Moreover, Gawain is forced to make a choice between courtesy and adultery, either of which would result in the dishonor of...

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