The Chivalric Tradition in Sir Garwain and the Green Knight

Justine Bakuuro

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(English, 14 pages)


In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Gawain continuously proves his knightly virtues and code of honor. Chivalry includes bravery, honor, and courtesy. He proves that he is in fact a "real" Knight. He shows his bravery by shying away from nothing and no one. He proves his honor and courtesy to everyone he meets by showing respect to all whether he receives it back or not. In this poem, romance is largely judged by itself. The poet allows the unfolding of the story to lead us to look beneath even the attractive surface of chivalry, a Chaucerian method. Comment from the poet-narrator is kept to a minimum, and one is not aware of a strong narratorial personality. If his few interventions have anything in common, it is that they direct the reader to serious implications, like the comment at the end of the first fitt (487-90). The poem may be thought of as focusing on three figures, each of whom represents a distinct thematic element: Gawain, Bertilak (and his household), and Arthur (and his court). Much of the poem's meaning is generated from the interrelation of these three elements, and they are the source of the three judgments offered on Gawain's conduct. I shall attempt an exploration of the chivalric qualities of this rich romantic poem.





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