Who is this Green Knight that challenges Sir Gawain? At King Arthur's castle, you must keep in mind that no one knows what is going on. Like Grendel, the Green Knight is a sort of creature never seen before by men. A typical romance In romances, the laws of nature are suspended, allowing mysticism or the
supernatural where heroes fight the forces of evil Mrs. Moulton British Literature The Chivalric Hero Sir Gawain is marked by absolute courtliness. He is always courageous, honorable (he keeps his word), devout, loyal, and gracious toward all men and (especially) women.
Chivalry: code of conduct developed by nobles and knights Mrs. Moulton British Literature His Test He thinks it is his courage that is being tested. He does not realize that he is enduring another kind of test. When he arrives to face his test at the end, he finds
that he has already been tested--that his test is, in fact, over. Mrs. Moulton British Literature As you read, ask yourself: What is really being tested? (This is not a simple question.) How does Sir Gawain do? What are we supposed to think of the Green
Knight? the wife? King Arthur? his court? Sir Gawain himself? Mrs. Moulton British Literature Test Motif An applicant has to pass a test to prove himself worthy. Sinners often had to suffer through painful tests (ordeals) as penance (punishment) for their sins In this poem, Gawain is a chivalrous, heroic knight who is being tested for his courage, fidelity and sexual morality as he embarks
on a quest Mrs. Moulton British Literature The Author Composed this poem in the late 14th century. The poet is unknown, but he is referred to as "the Pearl poet" since he also wrote "The Pearl." He was probably a member of a court since he is so familiar with court life, costumes, and entertainment.
The poet was a contemporary of Chaucer, and he wrote in a dialect much less modern than that of Chaucer. Mrs. Moulton British Literature Words to know: Feudalism: social order in medieval Europe, loyalty to the lords Chivalry: code of conduct developed by nobles/knights
Mrs. Moulton British Literature setting (time): The mythical past of King Arthurs court (sometime after Romes fall, but before recorded history) place: Camelot; the wilderness; a castle; the Green Chapel major conflict: Gawains struggle over whether his knightly virtues are more
important than his life. Man vs. what? Mrs. Moulton British Literature Narrator/point of view: Third person omniscient type of work: Alliterative poem Genre: Romance, Arthurian legend Language: Middle English (translated into
modern English) time and place written: Ca. 1340-1400, West Midlands, England Mrs. Moulton British Literature Characteristics of the medieval romance include Stories that are full of adventure, conveying a sense of the supernatural, giving a glamorous
portrayal of castle life, and chivalric ideas of bravery, honor, courtesy, fairness to enemies and respect for women As you read, determine HOW Gawain displays ideals of chivalry Mrs. Moulton British Literature The Court and its Knights Like the culture itself, Arthur is young and inexperienced. The knights are equally clueless. Since everyone is starting
from scratch, the knights typically go out on adventures and face the forces of good and evil, uncertain how to balance bravery and Christianity. Mrs. Moulton British Literature A Christian knight must decide how best to act in ambiguous situations. Most important for the development and
instruction of society, the knight must return to the court and report his actions. Only in this way can the court learn from the individuals' experiences. Then, future knights will have more to guide them. Mrs. Moulton British Literature Gawain goes out into the wilderness to face the Green Knight as he has honorably
promised. He prides himself on being the perfect Christian knight. Mrs. Moulton British Literature But here is the problem facing the Christian knights: how can one emulate Christ and be a soldier living in the real world? Is it possible to be like Christ? Have the knights set
themselves a goal they will never achieve? Mrs. Moulton British Literature Faced with magic, and a lady who tempts him, Gawain stumbles as a perfect knight. He takes the story of his humiliation back to the court so that
they all might learn from his mistakes. He serves his king and helps develop new values for his civilization. Mrs. Moulton British Literature Green Knight as Fertility God The Green Knight represents the life force in nature and in human beings. The life force is what makes human
beings try so hard to survive and what makes human beings reproduce. Look at his color, his clothes and his wearing of the holly. Mrs. Moulton British Literature A Christian Poem This poem is truly Christian, not the unformed Christianity of Beowulf. The season for the story's setting is
Christmas, the biggest ritual in the Christian world. Of course, the Bible does not give us Jesus' birthday. Mrs. Moulton British Literature The early Christian Church, trying to make Christianity an easy to follow religion, chose Dec. 25 for Christmas. The pagan people (fertilityworshipping) were used to having a
major celebration about this time around the Winter Solstice (Dec. 22, the shortest day of the year). Mrs. Moulton British Literature The early Church fathers more or less said, You can still have your winter holiday, but we're going to call it Christmas, the celebration of the birth of your new god, Jesus. Mrs. Moulton British Literature
The same thing happened at Easter. The celebration of the Spring Equinox became the celebration of the Resurrection
Mrs. Moulton British Literature This superimposing the new religion on the old is one of the reasons for the success of Christianity in Europe. Mrs. Moulton British Literature The Beheading Game The Beheading Game occurs in earlier eighth and ninth century Irish (Celtic)
romances. In this poem, the Green Knight invites Gawain to exchange blows, not to chop off his head. Watch how Gawain is tempted by anger. He's insulted because the Green Knight belittles the valor of Arthur's court. Mrs. Moulton British Literature Guiding questions
Is Gawain good, bad or a little of both? How do we judge him? Does Gawain represent the best or the worst of human possibilities? ** These answers will help you develop your final exam essay! Mrs. Moulton British Literature
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