Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Ms. MYers' Classroom

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight author is anonymous written c. 1400 in Middle English important in literature because it represents all of the following significant poetic genres: Arthurian romance poetry/courtly love poetry medieval alliterative poetry epic poetry Sir Gawain and the Green

Knight in Middle English Wel gay watz is gome gered in grene, And e here of his hed of his hors swete. Fayre fannand fax vmbefoldes his schulderes; A much berd as a busk ouer his brest henges, at wyth his hi3lich here at of his hed reches Watz euesed al vmbetorne abof his elbowes, at half his armes er-vnder were halched in e wyse Of a kyngez capados at closes his swyre; e mane of at mayn hors much to hit lyke, Wel cresped and cemmed, wyth knottes ful mony

Folden in wyth fildore aboute e fayre grene, Ay a herle of e here, an oer of golde; e tayl and his toppyng twynnen of a sute, And bounden boe wyth a bande of a bry3t grene, Dubbed wyth ful dere stonez, as e dok lasted, Syen rawen wyth a wong a warle knot alofte, er mony bellez ful bry3t of brende golde rungen. Such a fole vpon folde, ne freke at hym rydes, Watz neuer sene in at sale wyth sy3t er at tyme, with y3e. He loked as layt so ly3t, So sayd al at hym sy3e; Hit semed as no mon my3t Vnder his dynttez dry3e.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as Arthurian romance/courtly love poetry There is no solid evidence for/against the reign of a historic King Arthur. Some historians suggest Arthur was a Roman military leader who held power anywhere from 3rd to 7th century A.D. (Artorius = plowman) Arthur is more important for the legends that developed around him and his Knights of the Round Table A statue of King Arthur from around 1400 AD image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Arthur3487.jpg

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as Arthurian romance/courtly love poetry, cont. Arthur traditionally credited with uniting all England (i.e. uniting the pagan tribes) and therefore creating the potential for the development of a unique British character after the Norman invasion of England. Arthurian legends reach height in/around 12th century A.D. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur#The_Arthurian_romance) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as Arthurian romance/courtly love poetry, cont.

Even more importantly, it is around the legendary King Arthur that the chivalric tradition of the middle ages developed. Chivalry from the French word cheval or horse refers to the code of behavior that was expected of knights (all noblemen). This tradition was also called courtesie (also French), meaning the behavior of the court. CHIVALRY Chivalry comes from the French cheval, or horse (n.b. Norman influence in language). Only the wealthiest people in

medieval society could keep horses and afford to use them in combat. Chivalry became associated, therefore, with the qualities of horsemen, or knights. related words: cavalier (Fr., L.), cavalry (from L. caval), caballero (Sp.) a portrait of Gawain by artist Jackie Sullivan fromhttp://www.runtotheocean.net/sketchblog/apr03.html In Arthurian tradition, the Knights of the Round Table (Lancelot, Galahad,

Bedivere, Agravain, Perceval, Tristan, Gawain, et.al.*) embodied both individually and en masse, the characteristics of courtesie or courtly love. *see a complete list at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_of_the_Round_Table Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as Arthurian romance/courtly love poetry, cont. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

as Arthurian romance/courtly love poetry, cont. Characteristics of Courtly Behavior Respect the king. Do nothing to bring him dishonor. Respect women. Do nothing to bring dishonor to any woman. Protect the poor and the weak. Honor God as a faithful Christian. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as Arthurian romance/Courtly love poetry, cont. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (from

now on SGGK) is cited as a seminal example of Arthurian romance poetry or courtly love poetry. Assignment: As we read SGGK, identify all behavior on the part of any character in the poem that conforms to the medieval regard for courtesie. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as medieval alliterative verse Like all other examples of literature weve read thus far, SGGK almost certainly began as an oral history carried from village-to-village by a bard or singing storyteller. Like Beowulf, therefore, SGGK is marked by

meter, rhyme, and (as with Beowulf) alliteration. All these poetic devices were intended to help in the oral retelling of the story. Why is it called alliterative verse? VERSE FORM: the "Gawain stanza"--a varying number of alliterative long lines terminated by a "bob & wheel," five short rhyming

lines (ababa). from: http://faculty.uca.edu/~jona/ He was a fine fellow fitted in green -And the hair on his head and his horse's matched. It fanned out freely enfolding his shoulders, and his beard hung below as big as a bush, all mixed with the marvelous mane on his head, which was cut off in curls cascading to his elbows, wrapping round the rest of him like a king's cape clasped to his neck. And the mane of his mount was much the same, but curled up and combed in crisp knots, in braids of bright gold thread and brilliant green criss-crossed hair by hair. And the tossing tail was twin to the mane,

for both were bound with bright green ribbons, strung to the end with long strands of precious stones, and turned back tight in a twisted knot bright with tinkling bells of burnished gold. No such horse on hoof had been seen in that hall, nor horseman half so strange as their eyes now held in sight. He looked a lightning flash, they say: he seemed so bright; A and who would dare to clash B in melee with such might? A

A B Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as epic poetry Review: Characteristics of the Epic Hero 1. He is a model of faith, loyalty, or bravery 2. who makes a long, difficult journey 3. to do battle on behalf of another 4. perhaps using his own superhuman talents 5. against an enemy who may himself have or be guarded by supernatural powers.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as epic poetry, cont. Review: Characteristics of the Epic Poem 1. An epic poem is a long, highlystylized narrative poem 2. that recounts the exploits of its main character the epic hero. 3. Because most epic poetry originated as sung or spoken verse, it is rigidly metered and rhymed. Journey = Quest In medieval poetry, the epic heros journey to battle (like Beowulfs to Dane-land) becomes a quest.

A quest is an adventurous expedition in search of something spiritually fulfilling or self-enhancing. Gold spurs? Immediately upon reading/hearing these lines about the Green Knight who has burst into Arthurs Christmas festivities, the audience would know that he was a guy not to be

messed with: He was got up in green from head to heel: a tunic worn tight, tucked to his ribs; and a rich cloak cast over it, covered inside with a fine fur lining, fitted and sewn with ermine trim that stood out in contrast from his hair where his hood lay folded flat; and handsome hose of the same green hue which clung to his calves, with clustered spurs of bright gold; (ll. 151-55) Why the Green Knight?

In medieval England, the Green Man was a pagan representation of nature. The Green Man was not Satanic, but did symbolize the nature worship that characterized pre-Christian tribal paganism. The Green Man is not evil, but is also not Christian a battle between any of Arthurs knights and any creature reminiscent of Britains pagan past is, by

extension, a battle between good and evil or between the Christian piety of Arthurs knights and their tribal, non-Christian predecessors. Gawains Shield In the poem, Gawains shield is very clearly described as a golden pentangle on a field of red. The pentangle, the poem goes on to tell us, represents Gawains Five

Fifths. The pentangle is also called the endless knot. In medieval symbology, red signifies humility as the blood of Christ Gold signifies perfection. from: http://faculty.uca.edu/~jona/second/ggknotes.htm#id008 1 Gawain was said to possess five

qualities one for each of the pentangles points wherein he far excelled all other knights. The first of these Five Fifths was his faultlessness in his five senses. from: http://faculty.uca.edu/~jona/second/ggknotes.htm#id008 2 Gawain was said to possess five qualities wherein

he far excelled all other knights, cont. The next (second) of these Five Fifths was his faultlessness in his five fingers. from: http://faculty.uca.edu/~jona/second/ggknotes.htm#id008 Gawain was said to possess five qualities wherein he far excelled all other knights, cont. 3 The next (third) of these Five Fifths was the strength Gawain drew from his devotion to the five wounds of Christ. from: http://faculty.uca.edu/~jona/second/ggknotes.htm#id008

The Jerusalem Cross 1. The wounds in the hands. 2. The wounds in the feet. 3. The wound in the side of Christ Gawain was said to possess five qualities wherein he far excelled all other knights, cont. The next (fourth) of these Five Fifths was the strength Gawain drew from his devotion to the five joys of Mary.

4 from: http://faculty.uca.edu/~jona/second/ggknotes.htm#id008 The five joys of Mary are also known as The Five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. They are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. the Annunciation

the Nativity the Resurrection the Ascension the Assumption 5 Gawain was said to possess five qualities wherein he far excelled all other knights, cont. The last of these Five Fifths was Gawains well-known practice of the five social graces. from: http://faculty.uca.edu/~jona/second/ggknotes.htm#id008 The five social graces

which Gawain exemplifies above all others are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. free-giving (generosity) brotherly love chastity pure manners (courtesie) piety

from: http://faculty.uca.edu/~jona/second/ggknotes.htm#id008 Gawain faced 5 challenges 1. to voluntarily confront the Green Knight 2. to strike his blow properly 3. to keep his vow to meet the Green Knight in a year and a day. 4. to survive journey to the green chapel 5. to resist the ladys temptations from: http://faculty.uca.edu/~jona/second/ggknotes.htm#id008 More on

Gawai ns fifth challe nge The FIFTH TEST is the temptations and the three gifts; it tests especially the fifth point of the pentangle, the social virtues. Gawain falls: his acceptance of the girdle is not a fault; his hiding of it is a potential fault; his actual withholding of it from Bertilak is his fall. Had he given it back to the lady, he would have erased his potential fault. The real fault, from

Gawain's point of view, is that the reality of his own mortality induces him to break the endless knot. Thus two effects of original sin are reasserted: cowardice (bodily mortality) and covetousness (willful cupidity). His nature as a man is asserting itself against his nature as a knight. from: http://faculty.uca.edu/~jona/second/ggknotes.htm#id008 The Garter Honi soit qui mal y pense Shame be upon him who thinks evil of

this. Chastity? Piety? Respect for the King? Q: Gawain knows that he is facing certain death and SOON when he finally confronts the Green Knight and accepts his half of the bargain. Why would he still adhere to courtesie and resist the Ladys

temptation?

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