Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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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.

The story tells about adventures of Sir Gawain, who takes the Green Knight's challenge. One year after cutting Green Knight's head off, which did not kill him, Gawain has to travel to find the Green Knight and take his blow in return. He finds a strange castle, and while he awaits there for the final day, his knight's ethical code is put to a test by the host and his wife.

In this part, Green Knight, in an unmannerly way, enters the hall where King Arthur and his Knights feast and cleverly gets them committed to take his game without revealing what it is he wants to play.

The story

In this passage from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Green Knight enters the hall on his horse. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are having their feast. They are astounded to see a green knight on a green horse. They don't take any action; instead they stare at the stranger. The Green Knight challenges the king and his companions to take his game. He is arrogant, and he uses their pride to get them committed to his game. He is successful, as the king promises to take the game, although he does not know what it is yet.

The Green Knight comes into the hall where King Arthur and his knights feast on a horse, and does not greet anyone. He carries a huge axe with "The Spike of green steel" (Norton 207) and with green engravings. He carries no armor and no other weapons. When he enters, not only he does not greet the people present, but he looks down rudely at them and asks: "Where is the captain of this crowd? Keenly I wish to see that sire with sight, and to himself say my say."

The knights of the Green Table are so surprised, they fail to protect their king.

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They stare at the Green Knight, for they have never seen such a sight. They do not take any action, waiting what he will do. King Arthur answers saying he is the head of the party and invites Green Knight to introduce himself.

The Green Knight is not kind, for does introduce himself when asked. He says that he comes in peace for he has no armor, but first he tells them how brave they are: "If you be so bold as all men believe, you will graciously grant the game that I ask by right." This is only to get them to take his challenge. And King Arthur promises somebody will take his challenge: "Sir courteous knight, if contest bare you crave, you shall not fail to fight."

This passage reveals the way The Green Knight gets King Arthur's promise to take his challenge without knowing what the challenge is. The Green Knight appears as a rude, but clever challenger. He plays on their pride in a way they cannot refuse his challenge and keep their honor. From this point on, the knights are committed to the challenge, and this becomes the prediction of the next part of the story.

Works Cited

Clipart Castle. Online. Internet. 12/05/98. Available: http://www.clipartcastle.com/

Janto, Hrana. ILLUSTRATED HISTORY. March 1998. Online. Internet. 12/5/98. Available: http://www.hranajanto.com/history.html

Luminarium. Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. June 10, 1998. Online. Internet. 12/05/98. Available: http://www.luminarium.org/medlit/gawain.htm

Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M. H. Abrams, et al. Vol 1. Sixth ed. NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1993.


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