Disposition in the face of Adversity: An analysis of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The Middle Ages, a period of turbulence, reform, and revolution yet the idea of Knighthood remained ever so stead-fast. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an acclaimed Middle English poem published by an unknown author that highlights the preponderance of the English tradition. Sir Gawain is a knight belonging to the Arthurian court whose deference to his Lord and fidelity to the chivalric code are tested through a mysterious journey. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the poet emphasizes the idea that people must adhere to a specific set of moral codes in order to preserve their integrity. On Christmas night inside King Arthur’s court every single seat is filled with knights celebrating the coming of the New Year. An unknown Knight rides into the court under the pretext of wanting to inspect Arthur’s court, challenging any of Arthurs knights presiding in the court to the “axe game.” The court is silent and no one is willing to step up and accept the Green Knights offer. “What, is this Arthur’s house…Whose fame is so far in far realms and wide...Where is now your arrogance and your awesome deeds...Your valor and your victories and your vaunting words.” (SSGK 309-312) The alleged knights of Arthur’s court have failed to comply with the code of chivalry; they have refused a challenge from an equal. The Green Knights challenge is now identified as a test of the chivalric attributes embodying the Arthurian knights. The reputation of Arthur’s court and the integrity of his glorious knights are in jeopardy. King Arthur expresses fury because of the weak devotion his knights have to the code of chivalry, “his face flushed red with rage.“ (SSGK 319). King Arthur steps forward to defend the reputation and chivalric basis of his court personally but is stopped by Sir Gawain. “In good faith said that virtuous knight, I am called Gawain”(SSGK 381). Gawain’s name echo’s through the court as a symbol of courage and accountability. The Knights of the round-table have had their integrity blemished due to their their collective inability to honor the code of chivalry and step up to the challenge. Sir Gawain has stuck with the basic moral guidelines of chivalry and stepped in to accommodate King Arthur asserting his strict piety to the code of chivalry by serving his lord in valor and respect. Gawain has become a surrogate for the code of chivalry in front of Arthur’s court and the numerous knights that recess there. Sir Gawain has successfully preserved the reputation of Arthur’s court by accepting the Green Knights challenge demonstrating his orthodox loyalty to the code of chivalry. Sir Gawain has exposed the flaws in the other Arthurian knights by preserving his personal integrity. At Lord Bertilaks castle Sir Gawain is confronted with a paradoxical and delicate situation involving Lady Bertilak that was a test of his morality and personal integrity. After a full year of waiting Sir Gawain heads to fulfill his part of the challenge by attempting to locate the Green Chapel in which the Green Knight resides. Lady Bertilak enters Sir Gawain’s guest room many times in a subtle attempt to seduce him. Sir Gawain refuses to become entrapped with human temptation. Sir Gawain attempts to courteously drive off Lady Birtilak by lionizing Lord Bertilak, “You are bound to a batter man.”(SGGK 1276). Sit Gawain is reverberating the code of chivalry through the reverence to a fellow knight and respect of a fellow knights property. Sir Gawain is very courteous and honorable with Lady Bertilak as demonstrated by the way he interacts with the Lady. Sir Gawain understands that must find a way out of the situation, while avoiding being discourteous. Lady Bertilak comes in the following days dressed in more revealing demanding more attention from Sir Gawain. “So good a knight as Gawain is given out to be...the model of fair demeanor and manners pure…would have claimed...
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