The Character of Gawain in Middle English Literature - Cory J

What were the Medieval conceptions: constructions, perceptions, understanding of character

The Arthurian Legend Remains Popular in Today’s …

Beowulf is often praised for his strength and greatness, along with his pursue for personal goals; while Sir Gawain is merely revealed as a true hero, he’s someone who you, as a reader, can actually relate to.

Sir Gawain isn't in this novel, but here is a look at the Red Cross Knight; The Redcrosse Knight is Book I's hero. His real name is George, and he later becomes St. George, the patron saint of England.

Beowulf Influences and Temptation March 4, 2013 | …

It is important to consider Gawain in light of the conventions of the romance genre. All the characteristics of the romance are present, however, closer examination suggests a questioning of the values of chivalry and the typical romance. Does the poet really support these values, even when he writes in the style of the romance? Is there a not a greater irony to his description of conventional romance elements, or to the way the events unfold in the poem? Remember the poem was written sometime in the fourteenth century, at a time when the romance genre was already a dying form. Thus, the poet, while not exactly satirizing the romance, could certainly be expressing his doubts about the values and social institution of the chivalric court by playing within the bounds of the romance genre. Fitt I and the Romance Genre: From the very beginning, Fitt I corresponds with expected conventions of the romance genre. Among these is the opening exposition which establishes the historical setting via a list of previous battles and legendary heroes. Many other romances and epics (another popular genre of the time) began this way, establishing a link with the legendary past and thereby legitimizing the unfolding content of the current narrative. When the poet focuses upon Arthur's court, this too is a romantic convention, for Arthur and his knights were already a popular topic of romances, serving as the ideal of chivalric loyalty and valor. Again, it is no surprise that the scene unfolds at a great New Year's feast, another romantic convention, for this provides the poet with a chance to display the chivalric society at its greatest and most vibrant. Notice how he describes Arthur and his knights in superlatives, as the most famous knights in Christendom and the handsomest of kings. Superlative mention is also made of Queen Guinevere, her beauty and nobility, with particular attention paid to the details of her dress and accoutrements. Finally, the poet emphasizes Arthur's wish for a great wonder or tale to entertain him at the feast, again an affirmation of the typical view of Camelot as a place of adventure and unparalleled bravery. In all these elements ­ the historical opening, the Arthurian setting, the opulent feast, the superlative portrayal of Guinevere, the lavish attention to detail, and Arthur's desire for adventure ­ in all of these, the poet acts clearly within the convention of the romance.

Compare and Contrast Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Compare and contrast Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with regard to some/all of the following a) the hero’s journey or quest b) religion and mysticism c) literary structure and d) time period and cultural values.

Medieval, Arthurian, and Celtic lore often had such female temptresses, all of whom existed to distract the knight errant from his moral task. The Lady in obviously fits this role, but we should also not forget the Biblical story of the Fall of Man which we discussed in our analysis of Fitt II. There we saw how the castle in the poem resembled popular medieval representations of Paradise, emerging miraculously from a dark wasteland. In , this "Paradise" is not all it seems to Gawain, for rather than bring him salvation, it now only provides him with further perils, in the guise of the predatory lady. Indeed, by appealing to Gawain's sexual desire, the lady becomes an Eve-figure in this false Paradise, tempting the hero to violate his moral agreement with his higher lord. Another resemblance should be noted, and that is to the archetypal enchantress/healing women of Celtic myth. Folklore abounded with Otherworldly women who could cure wounded warriors and bring them back to health. The lady in, strangely enough, offers Gawain a cure in the form of the green girdle. Its magical healing properties associate her with such archetypal female healers, yet it is this very girdle which lies at the root of Gawain's moral deception. Instead of curing him, it only taints him in a moral sense. Thus, the lady does not heal but instead wounds Gawain, and, just as with the false Paradise of the castle, nothing is as it seems. Symbols: The most obvious symbol in Fitt III is the green girdle which Gawain secretly accepts from the lady. As discussed above, it is a deceptive object, for it claims to protect a man, but in this case has only caused Gawain to breach his moral code and (as we will see) ruin his sense of self. Although Gawain accepts it because of his fear of death, there are still all the trappings of romantic love: the lady unties it from her waist and wraps it around Gawain's. On the outside, it still appears as a love-token, thereby emphasizing the sense of deception when Gawain hides it from the lord. Also, of course, it is green, linking it immediately with the Green Knight whom Gawain must meet the next day. In a sense, it is a sort of a reverse-magic to that of the supernatural, indestructible knight ­ or at least Gawain hopes so. Yet both the Green Knight and the green girdle seem to hark from a world of the magical, the otherworldly, the natural and fertile and indestructible. Again, there are pagan connotations with the obvious emphasis on fertility. We can even see the pagan, magical green girdle as representing everything that is not acceptable by chivalric and Christian standards: in keeping it, Gawain goes against his code of honesty, courage, and faith.

As with Beowulf, only one manuscript of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is known to exist in the entire world. Sir Robert Cotton, whose collection of manuscripts became the British Library, used a unique filing system.