Analysis of Sir Gawain

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight contains many themes. Some of these themes are more obvious than others. Love, lust, loyalty, deceit, trust, courage, virtue, and righteousness are most of the themes within the poem. There are some more that are hidden within the concepts of the ideas that the poem presents. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by John Gardner, many different themes are addressed throughout the story. The translation by John Gardner portrays these themes by using specific characters, medieval symbolism, and various settings within the story.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a great work of medieval literature. The story is considered to be verse romance. There are not many solid facts on the story. The story was composed in the second half of the fourteenth century. It is likely that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written around 1375. The author of the piece remains unknown, but we do know of the northwestern dialect of Middle English with which he wrote the poem. The unknown author also consciously wrote in an old-fashioned style. The author is usually referred to as the Gawain poet or the Pearl poet. Three poems were included with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. "Pearl", "Patience", and "Purity" were all with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the same manuscript. This is the reason the author is named as the Pearl poet, in addition to the Gawain poet. All four poems were uniquely named Cotton Nero A.X. This is due to the manuscript's previous owner, Sir Robert Cotton. Cotton supposedly acquired the manuscript from Yorkshire bibliophile Henry Savile (1568-1617), but its whereabouts before then are unknown (Grolier).

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was first edited and published in 1839 by Madden, whose entire name in uncertain. He called the untitled poem Syr Gawayn and the Grene Knyyt. The poem did not receive much attention at all until the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1916, George Lyman Kittredge's ongoing study of the poem contained extremely valuable research of the sources and analogues of the poem. Many other authors focused on the text, language, and possible authors of the work. In the 1930s and ‘40s there was a rise of mythic criticism of the poem, as many scholars sought to interpret Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with new knowledge of medieval folklore and mythical traditions. Moreover, it was not until the 1950s that criticism of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight became strictly literary. Unfortunately, even then the poem was read incorrectly as a straight-forward and very prototypical medieval romance. Finally, in the 1960s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight reached a climax; and it welcomed an extraordinary flow of criticism. Since then, critics have steadily been writing about the poem, maintaining and proving the modern understanding that this intriguing poem is one of the best and most difficult of all medieval works (Galenet).

John Champlin Gardner, Jr. was born in Batavia, New York. He was raised right outside of Batavia in Alexander, New York. He went to school through eleventh grade in Alexander but ended up graduating from Batavia High School in 1951. Gardner earned a Ph.D. at Iowa State University and began his influential teaching career. In addition to teaching, John Gardner wrote many scholarly works. He focused mainly on medieval translations and editions. He wrote a translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in 1965. This well respected translation is considered one of the finest and most accurate among the literary world. John Gardner was extremely talented and continuously wrote works of all different genres. He wrote plays, novels, poetry, criticism, and fiction, including Grendel in 1971. He won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1976. Unfortunately in 1982, the great and exciting John Gardner died in a motorcycle accident. He lived a thorough and wonderful life, influencing many people...
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