Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

5 May 2017

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an Arthurian romance, which begins in King Arthur’s court, during New Year’s Eve feast. Unexpectedly, a fgure known as the Green Knight, appears and presents a challenge. He challenges Arthur, or any other brave knight, to use his own axe to strike his head. Then in a year’s time, the Green Knight would be able to return the blow. Everyone was shocked at this challenge, no one accepted, and the Green Knight scorned them for their cowardice. King Arthur steps forward to accept.

Yet he is interrupted by our hero, Sir Gawain. Sir Gawain strikes, and the Green Knight loses his head. Astonishingly, the Green Knight picks up his head, repeats the terms of his challenge, and rides off! Sir Gawain is left in a pact that within a year he must seek the Green Chapel, and receive a strike with the same axe, from the Green Knight. When Sir Gawain accepted the challenge, he demonstrated selflessness. The challenge was introduced in a manner that gave the volunteer hardly any time to think about it.

Rather than him debating about whether it would benefit him or not, e sacrificed impulsively for the sake of his King, and for the honor and reputation of his fellow knights. Sir Gawain demonstrated leadership because they needed a representative. He didn’t accept out of selfish ambition, but out of devotion to their cause. He was obviously brave, for agreeing to a match that had so much confusion regarding the Green Knight’s motives. Sir Gawain’s example at this point in the poem is very honorable. Sir Gawain goes out in search of the Green Chapel, as their meeting time draws near.

As he seeks a place where he could attend mass, he comes across a castle. He is welcomed there by the host and ushered to stay. The host proposes a deal with Gawain. He offers that he will trade all of his hunting winnings for anything Sir Gawain is able to attain while staying in the castle. They agree. The next morning, the lord’s beautiful wife sneaks into Gawain’s bed, and flirtatiously demands a kiss. He refuses her seductiveness, but as she leaves grants her a kiss. That night him and the host exchange their winnings, and Gawain gives the lord a kiss.

The next day the wife convinces him to kiss her twice. That evening he kisses the host twice. The third day he grants her three kisses, and she insists he give her a token of some sort. He refuses this, and won’t accept one from her. Then she mentions her girdle, which is apparently magical, and protects the wearer from death. He keeps the girdle, but to the host he does not trade the girdle. The poem ends in a twist of events, Sir Gawain discovers the Green Knight is the host of the castle. At the Green Chapel the Green Knight spares Gawain’s life, because he finds him to be an honorable knight.

He strikes Gawain three times, on the third time drawing blood, because on the third trade of winnings, Gawain was not completely honest that he had kept the girdle. In many medieval romances, the hero doesn’t admit their own failure. Yet this story is different. Sir Gawain returns to King Arthur’s Court in shame. He continues to wear the girdle to “humble his heart ” H was completely honest as he told the tale before the court. He did not try to flatter himself in his story. He did not lie or cover up his faults.

Arthur and all of the knights oined Gawain in wearing green girdles, so as to honor him for his integrity. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a tale that focuses on one character, Sir Gawain. It captures an example of what an honorable knight would have been. Gawain displays ideals that medieval society produced, such as faithfulness and devotion to a cause, selflessness, sacrifice, integrity, honesty, and humility. This poem doesn’t represent a conceited lead character, like many others of its kind. It represents a relatable, but still very honorable and inspirational knightly model.

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. (2017, May 23). Retrieved January 23, 2020, from
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