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Themes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Themes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Themes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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  1. Themes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

  2. Temptation and testing • “A trial of Gawain’s fidelity to his host and of his loyalty to the chivalric ideal of truth.” • A typical temptation fable of the medieval period presents a series of tribulations assembled as tests of moral virtue. • The Green Knight tests Gawain’s ability to follow the virtues represented on his shield. • The five points of the pentangle denote the five moral virtues of the code of chivalry: friendship, generosity, chastity, courtesy and piety.”

  3. Sir Gawain’s devotion to the code of chivalry is constantly being tested by the Green Knight • King Arthur’s court- friendship and courtesy • Generosity and courtesy is seen during his visit at the castle • Gawain’s piety and chastity are tested by the host’s wife-must accept girdle according to his code • The green girdle tempts him to abandon the code of chivalry • He later repents to the Green Knight – he becomes aware of his mortality and weakness- he rises above his mistakes and achieves growth through his experience

  4. Hunting and seduction • There are parallels between the hunting scenes and the seduction scenes • Deer- unspecific and nonviolent like the seduction scene- there is no apparent danger • Boar- more detail and more difficult to hunt- the host’s wife is more forward • Fox- most easily connected- resorts to trickery to save his skin- Gawain accepts the girdle to save his life

  5. Nature Vs Chivalry • The Green Knight invades Arthur’s peaceful hall • Nature can be seen as force that keeps man from the code of chivalry. • It may also be seen as an inevitable ruler over man. • Richard Hamilton asserts, “ the author creates a dark world of potential failure and warns of ‘powers of evil which may corrupt even the most virtuous men and institutions’” • “Gawain is truly imperfect and it is through his lesson of humility that he finds redemption”

  6. Games • An exchange of beheading • An exchange of winnings • The hero’s survival of the first game depends on his honesty, the second on his purity

  7. Symbolism • Color green- nature, rebirth, witchcraft, the fading away of youth (when combined with gold like the girdle) • The Green Knight- a manifestation of the devil, a fusion of two deities- good and evil or life and death • The Pentangle- infinity, the 5 virtues in the Code of Chivalry, the five tasks • The girdle- a replacement for his trust in God to save him from the axe wound, a symbol of feminine power, a sexual symbol??? • The wound- Gawain’s sin-his desire to preserve mortal life. Eventually the wound heals which is symbol of his forgiven sins.