Femininity In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

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Femininity has always been directly related to masculinity. Whether they are building off of each other or tearing each other down, they are usually being compared in some way. Usually, the argument is over which has more power. Writings in these time periods were usually oriented around the masculine construct. However, there are a few distinct works that break the norms and give us insight on how femininity was constructed in those time periods. The concept of femininity and power through the Anglo-Norman, Medieval Ages and the Renaissance period transformed from female power being out of the ordinary but accepted to female power being shameful. One of the most prominent literary works coming out of the Anglo-Norman period was Marie de…show more content…
A great literary example of this turn is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This piece of work sort of walks through the turn. Throughout the story, the women have almost complete power over everything that is happening Sir Gawain. Morgan the Fay instigates the entire plan, exercising her overall power, Mary, when appropriately worshiped, gives Gawain his power, and Lady Bertilak works with her sexuality to exercise her power of Gawain. By the end of the story, Morgan and Mary work together to seal Gawain’s fate. They emasculate him by stripping him of his power over his own fate. They strip him of his masculine shield which symbolizes his faith, loyalty, and knighthood and replace it with a garter, a woman’s piece of clothing. This transition of “armor” is important. For most of the knighthood this transition to the garter is a sign of power and protection, however, for him is a constant reminder of his breach of loyalty. “See here the brand of blame that on my neck I bear, Lo! here the harm and loss I to myself have wrought, The cowardice covetous in which I there have wrought” (2510-2513). So to him, this shield to garter transition is very shameful. It is shameful because it is taking away his masculinity. Also, just like what is happening in the time period, it is shameful to be controlled by a feminine construct. So not only was Gawain being reminded of his…show more content…
One major way was how femininity was portrayed through literature during these time periods. During the Anglo-Norman period, we can analyze works such as, Marie de France’s, Lanval, to see that feminine power was not only accepted but put on a sort of on a pedestal. Women were controlling men through their seductive manners, and men were going with it. However, taking a turn into the Medieval period we see works such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. We see how in the beginning femininity is all powerful, but by the end, feminine power is something to be shameful about. All of this leading up to the Renaissance period, where femininity was constructed as something to hide and be shameful about. In this time period sonnets were a huge part of literature. Sonnets including blazons overly sexualized the female body, making it shameful. All of these points are key examples in explaining how femininity changed from being powerful in the Anglo-Norman period to being shameful in the Renaissance
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