1. The host’s wife goes after the man she wants, and uses a great deal of rhetorical and argumentative skill to seduce him. To what extent would you describe the host’s wife as a powerful or progressive female character?
Answer for Study Question 1 >>
The host’s wife appears to exercise a great deal of agency. Unlike Arthur’s queen, Guinevere, who sits silently passive amidst the courtiers at Camelot, the lady of Hautdesert speaks, thinks, and acts. Gawain considers the host’s wife even more attractive than Guinevere, and, clearly, the lady aims to give this impression—she wears revealing clothing that bares her breasts and back. She does her hair up elaborately, and it is possible to read line 952 as a statement that she wears makeup. The host’s wife crawls directly into Gawain’s bed once she has decided to seduce him, not waiting for him to come to her like a proper courtly lady.
In many ways, this lady seems more modern than a medieval woman. She chooses her lovers for herself and pursues her own desires, and she shows a keen ability to read people and a shrewd talent for arguing. When simple seduction fails to convince Gawain, she shows that she knows how to get under the knight’s skin by questioning his reputation and accusing him of discourtesy. Also, she is literate: in lines 1512–1519, she mentions having read romances. The verbal battle that ensues between the lady and Gawain escalates in intensity every day, and it seems possible that she eventually would have won if Gawain hadn’t left the castle. She shows herself to be every bit as clever at arguing as Gawain, if not more so.
Yet the Gawain-poet limits the lady in some interesting ways. First of all, he never gives her a name. Guinevere and Morgan le Faye, the other major female characters, both possess names, but the host’s lady—arguably the most important of the three women—remains anonymous. Furthermore, we discover at the poem’s end that the host’s wife is not in fact her own agent. Though

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