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A 12th Century Epic Romance. Is Honor Worth Dying for?.

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A 12th Century Epic Romance

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A 12th century epic romance

A 12th Century Epic Romance

Is honor worth dying for

IsHonorWorth Dying for?

  • This would have been an easy question for a medieval knight to answer. Knights were sworn to follow a code of behavior known as chivalry. The code required knights to defend their church, their king, and their country courageously. Today, however many people have doubts about whether an abstract concept such as honor is worth dying for.

Knight s code of chivalry

Knight’s Code of Chivalry

  • A knight was expected to have not only the strength and skills to face combat in the violent Middle Ages but was also expected to temper this aggressive side of a knight with a chivalrous side to his nature.

The knights code of chivalry and the vows of knighthood

The Knights Code of Chivalry and the vows of Knighthood

  • To fear God and maintain His Church

  • To serve the lord in valor and faith

  • To protect the weak and defenseless

  • To give aid to widows and orphans

  • To refrain from the unjustified giving of offence

  • To live by honor and for glory

  • To despise pecuniary reward

  • To fight for the welfare of all

A 12th century epic romance

  • To obey those placed in authority

  • To guard the honor of fellow knights

  • To shun unfairness, meanness and deceit

  • To keep faith

  • At all times to speak the truth

  • To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun

  • To respect the honor of women

  • Never to refuse a challenge from an equal

  • Never to turn the back upon a foe



  • Loyalty, devotion, faithfulness

    Honor, truth

Medieval romance

Medieval Romance

  • A medieval romance can be a dramatic verse or a prose narrative. It typically includes the following elements:

  • Larger-than-life characters

  • An adventurous hero who faces a severe challenge

  • Idealized love involving a noble lady

  • Exotic settings

  • Supernatural elements

  • Hidden or mistaken identity



  • Arthur : The legendary king of Britain, at whose court the story begins. Husband of Guinevere and uncle of Gawain, he presides over the famed Knights of the Round Table at Camelot.

  • His wife Guinevere--own issues with “fidelity.”

A 12th century epic romance

  • Morgan Le Faye: Arthur’s half sister who is jealous of Arthur’s inheritance (Camelot from his father Uther Pendragon)

  • She hopes to embarrass the knights.

A 12th century epic romance

  • Bertilak: manor lord of Hautdesert, where Gawain spends time playing the hunting game during the Christmas season

  • Lady Bertilak, the temptress; her desire is to seduce Gawain so that Arthur’s knights will be embarrassed.

A 12th century epic romance

The Green Knight:

a green man who comes to Arthur’s court in “friendship” he seeks someone in Arthur’s court who can play the “beheading game”



  • Symbolism: Green

    In English folklore and literature, Green has traditionally been used to symbolize nature and its embodied attributes, namely those of fertility and rebirth.

Plot a the beheading game

Plot A:The Beheading game

  • The Green Knight arrives in Camelot, challenges Arthur to a game of exchanging a “Blow for a Blow”

  • Arthur accepts, but Gawain steps in to defend King Arthur

  • Following the event, Gawain has one year and a day to go to receive his beheading!

Applying the cycle of the hero

Applying the Cycle of the hero

Where are we:


  • The Call to Adventure

  • Refusal of the Call

  • #Address the refusal of the call in an iNote..

Bob and wheel

Bob and Wheel

The "bob" is a very short line, sometimes of only two syllables, followed by the "wheel," longer lines with internal rhyme.

*Some internal rhyme is lost in translation.

Ex. Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

The Gawain poet is famous for this device



"stanza-" signifies regular, recurrent, and typically rhymed sections of poems

"strophe-" to signifies irregular, unrhymed subdivisions. 

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written in a series of strophes followed by "bob-and-wheel" stanzas.

Plot b the quest

Plot B: The Quest

  • Almost one year later, Gawain leaves Arthur’s court to find the Green knight

  • In classic Romance fashion, Gawain is given three chances to deny himself the misery of his quest

Five points of perfection

Five points of perfection

  • Gawain’s armorial symbol is the Pentangle symbolizing the requirements of Arthur’s knights-

  • Compassion

  • Courtesy

  • Loving kindness

  • Openness

  • Integrity

    • Inside his shield is a painting of the Madonna

    • Symbols of his outer nature

Visit to hautdesert

Visit to Hautdesert

Gawain searches for a place to celebrate Christmas and discovers a heavenly place called Hautdesert

He spends time at Hautdesert with Lord and Lady Bercilak

Each day as the Lord goes out to hunt, Gawain stays behind and “flirts” with Lady Bercilak.

A 12th century epic romance

  • There’s all kinds of symbolism with the hunting and the flirting, but it amounts to Gawain falling into the trap that Morgan le Fay set for him.

  • On the Third Day- The Lady gives Gawain a sash, or girdle of green, which she promises will magically prevent his death, remember he’s looking for the jolly green giant, so he thinks this can’t be such a bad idea.

A 12th century epic romance

  • The evening of the third day Bercilak returns and Gawain obviously refuses to tell about the belt (sash, girdle)

  • The next day, Gawain hopes to go to find the Green Knight so that he can prove himself in the Beheading Game

Arrival at the green chapel

Arrival at the Green Chapel

  • Found in a pit

  • Seems to be overgrown…

  • an underground church of evil

  • a thing of the Devil

  • Gawain hears the sharpening of an AXE!

  • The Green Knight appears and praises Gawain!

The beheading game

The Beheading Game

  • It is one year and one day after the Green Knight’s head was stricken off

  • The first blow causes Gawain to flinch in fear-Gawain argues that his head will not grow back!

  • The second blow stops short – Green Knight admires that Gawain did not flinch this time!

The beheading game1

The Beheading Game

  • The third blow just slices Gawain’s neck, not injuring the man-The Green Knight says it is for taking the green sash!

  • He knows of the seduction with his wife…the kisses Gawain took from Lady Bercilak

A 12th century epic romance

  • The Green Knight is a shape shifter- he was created by Morgan le Faye to ridicule Arthur!

A 12th century epic romance

Get your Interactive Reader Workbooks and turn to page 54. We will read the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Which character do you think is the most honorable?

Make sure you can answer why when we finish!

A 12th century epic romance

  • Can you identify some examples of the elements of Medieval Romance found in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?”

    • Larger than life characters:

    • Hero who faces a severe challenge

    • Idealized love involving a noble lady

    • Exotic setting

    • Supernatural elements

    • Hidden or mistaken Identity

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