There was once a time where knights were meant to be the epitome of chivalry; they symbolized honor, courage, justice and much more. However, not every knight matched the narrative of what a true knight should be. One way to teach people a certain value is through exemplary texts such as, “The wedding of King Arthur”. This story uses the knights and their actions to instruct the reader to be honorable by punishing the, shameful, dishonorable knights while rewarding the true and honorable one hence, guiding the reader towards a more honorable path. Sir Gawain does not show mercy to a defeated foe and is punished for it. Sir Torre follows the code of honor and is rewarded. Finally, Sir Pellinore does not help the damsel in distress and is punished with his life for it.
Medieval times were a time when honor was valued above all other qualities. All knights, the highest models of medieval manhood, adhered to a code of chivalry. When properly followed, this code allowed men to be truly honorable. Among the qualities most highly esteemed were integrity, loyalty, and courage. The clearest examples of chivalry were King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The Pearl Poet vividly illustrates the concepts of chivalry in his epic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where Sir Gawain is characterized as a very honorable, chivalrous knight. Throughout the poem, Gawain’s unceasing commitment to his code of chivalry provides a protection against, thus proving the value and necessity of chivalry.
“But no wonder if a fool should fall for a female and be wiped of his wits by womanly guile- it’s the way of the world.” (Armitage: 181,2414-2416) Gawain blames all of his troubles the past year on women. Not people who might’ve gotten in his way, or the lord of the manor, but specifically woman. Gawain cannot redeem himself by blaming others, but does it anyways. He was supposed to be the epitome of chivalry and purity, but blames a single woman, the lady of the manor, on everything that he started. Gawain was the one to agree to the Green Knight’s challenge, not a woman who told him to. He took on the lord’s bets, without the ladies saying anything to him. Gawain’s pride and misogyny showed that he could not complete, or even start a path to redemption.
Gawain conquers lust by refusing the lady's kiss and greed by denying the gold ring. She then offers a green sash that was to protect him from death. Gawain's character is questioned by showing dishonesty through his action of not giving the lord the sash. Gawain finds out that the sash has no power to protect him, however, he still continues to fight for his honor. Because he fought and did not coward down and admitted his fault, Gawain ultimately passed Splendid the Green Knight’s challenge. Splendid showed mercy upon Gawain by giving him
The main theme of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the journey to maturity of Gawain, the hero. During the passage, Gawain goes through three tests on his development. First, Gawain shows courage and resourcefulness when he volunteers to take the Green Knight’s challenge instead of Arthur doing so. Second, Gawain shows authority, self-restraint, and integrity when he denies the sexual endeavours of the lady of the house. Lastly, Gawain shows bravery when he faces death by keeping his meeting with the Green
In response to the taunting of the Green Knight, Sir Gawain says, "I shied once: no more. You have my word," (272-273). Gawain, like all natural man, shied away once from the Knight's sword as a defensive reflex, but he quickly shakes off any cowardice and announces to the Green Knight that he was caught in a moment of doubt. From there he goes to say that he ultimately is no coward, but rather a noble and courageous knight of the roundtable who is devoted and loyal to King Arthur. He is more than willing and prepared to take what is coming and preserve the honor of his people, as well as his own. After Gawain comes clean and acknowledges his sin, the Green Knight praises him for being an honorable and chivalrous knight. He then invites Gawain to a great feast, but Gawain humbly states that he must return to his duties and continue to defend and protect King Arthur and his subjects. Sir Gawain even thanks the Green Knight and wishes him well after this frightening test of honor. He says, "I've reveled too well already; but fortune be with you; May He who gives all honors honor you well," (401-402). Sir Gawain takes knighthood to a deeper level and continues to see his knightly duties and responsibilities as they blatantly are verses getting hot-headed, dramatizing a situation, and uprooting his
Gawain is courteous to no end, even asking for permission to “abandon [his] bench and stand by [Arthur]” (Pearl Poet l. 344) so he may risk his own life instead of his kings to abide by the Green Knights game. He even humbly states that he “[is] the weakest” (l. 354) and that it would be the least lost of he was to parish which is untrue. Gawain is also extremely courteous when he is denying the wife’s attempts to seduce him saying he is “a knight unworthy” (l.1245). He plays a game of wits as he must not offend her advances but at the same time must not let the wife win the “game” because then he would have to lay with her and that would be uncourteous to his host, Lord Bertilak. The only time Gawain faults in his courteousness is when he refuses to acknowledge the agreement he made with Lord Bertilak which was “whatever [Lord Bertilak] win[s] in the wood shall at once be [Gawain’s] and whatever gain [Gawain] may get [he] shall give in exchange” (ll. 1107-08). Gawain fails this agreement when he keeps the green girdle given to him by Bertilaks wife as he believes it will save his
Sir Gawain shows loyalty and humility when he makes the decision of honoring the promise he made with the Green Knight. This humility drives him to set off to pursue the Green Knight to honor the pact they agreed on. On his arrival at the Green chapel, he calls the Green Knight who emerges to greet him and to fulfill the terms of the contract (Cathell). Sir Gawain presents his neck voluntarily to the Green Knight who feigns two blows (Cooke 4). This is a commitment and a sign of piety that Gawain manifests. He is full of humility and loyalty, a virtue that is required to be exemplified by the
In the Pearl Poet’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, an epic story emerges to reveal a man’s journey of honor, honesty, valor, and loyalty. Throughout Gawain’s adventures in the poem, he discovers and demonstrates his own chivalric qualities. Although he makes a few mistakes along the way he strives to be an honorable man.
Gawain was destined to fail from the very beginning, it was an inevitable outcome. Gawain takes King Arthur’s place in the competition with the green knight, chivalry dictates this as the right course of action, a knight must protect and serve the king. Gawain then delivers the blow to the green knight, who then picks up his own head, and remains alive. Gawain fails to kill the green knight and now must face his own death next year. Later, Gawain makes his way to the green chapel to face the green knight. When he visits the Lord Bertilak on his own, Gawain struggles with the Lady and what to do when she invites him to kiss her. Gawain’s values as a knight are in conflict, because he needs to be polite to the Lady, but he is also loyal to the Lord. Gawain ultimately fails
In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight there are many archetypal figures influencing Gawain’s growth as a hero. Gawain must deal with many characters throughout his journey, these dealings reveal many sides of his character and tend to his moral growth. He learns many things from different aspects of the journey but he learns the most from the interactions with the characters. A number of characters in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight play key archetypal roles in the perfecting of the hero’s moral development.
Gawain, who had struck a deal with the lord to surrender all things he received during his stay in the lord’s dwelling, fails to do so in the name of self-preservation. The lord’s wife gifts Sir Gawain a green sash rumored to protect its possessor from physical harm. Gawain, recalling his inevitable meeting with the Green Knight, decides to contradict his agreement with the lord and “hid[es] it away from all hands and eyes” (Line 1875). His decision blatantly violated the chivalrous code, “failing a moral test in agreeing to hide the girdle from the husband, with whom he has the prior arrangement to exchange winnings” (West 9). Sir Gawain disrespected the lord whom was housing him when he decided to keep the sash a secret. This decision also contradicted his oath to speak truth at all times because he did not disclose his gift the lord, and therefore indirectly lied to the lord. Sir Gawain fails to uphold the chivalrous code through his prioritization for self-preservation over honoring his commitment to fellow
The Green Knight applauded Sir Gawain for living up to his end of the bargain. The Green Knight swung twice at Gawain’s neck and the first time Gawain flinched and the second time the Green Knight stopped right before his neck. The third time the Green Knight swings the axe and breaks the skin but doesn't decapitate Gawain. Which led to the Green Knight explaining to Gawain that he is actually the same lord of the castle where Gawain spent his holidays. The first two blows, he claims, were in return for the way Gawain returned the kisses of his wife, following the rules of their game as an honest man should. The third blow, he says, was for Gawain’s failure to return the green girdle to him on the last day. But because Gawain’s failing was only because he wanted to save his life, and not because he's just dishonorable, the Green Knight forgives him. He leaves Gawain with only a scar and a girdle as a reminder of his very human sin. Gawain returns to King Arthur’s court all ashamed and sad that he’s failed a test of honor by withholding the green girdle from Sir Bertilak out of a desire to preserve his own life. He feels like he’s failed in his duty as a knight and let everyone down. Perhaps, more importantly, he’s learned that he’s not perfect and never will be. He explains to the whole court that he plans to wear the girdle forever as a reminder of his failing, because "a man may hide his misdeed, but never erase it, for where once it takes root the stain can never be lifted". But instead of being properly sobered, the whole court laughs at Gawain’s words and agrees that everyone in court will wear a similar girdle for Gawain’s
Much of the action in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight revolves around carious kinds of games. In a way, all these games are connected. Chivalry is defined as the medieval system, principles, and customs of knighthood. In the time Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written, chivalry was a major deal. The games may have been somehow connected with chivalry, in that the medieval system included the playing of these games. The poet also uses these games in order to test the knights of their chivalry, their code of honor. In the beginning of the story, it is written, There true men contended in tournaments many, Joined there in jousting these gentle knights(p.159, ll.41). The relationship between games and tests is explored
Being merciful is showing God’s dealings with mankind and is a quality of God. Bertilak refers Gawain to being a knight worthy and has no equal. Bertilak exclaims that he was sent on this task to find Gawain and see what he is about. The revelation after the Bertilak spares Gawain’s life and knowing about the girdle all along leads Gawain to truly embrace his flaws and humility for the first time and in so doing to find atonement and a more stable base for Christian behavior than the rule-based chivalry of Arthur’s court.