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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Although there have been countless knights over the course of the Middle Ages, to this day still there are few who are more well-known than those of King Arthur's Round Table. As mentioned in the story Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the fame of the Knights of the Round Table was renowned even in the time of King Arthur, which is rather uncommon. As the story goes, the Green Knight enters King's Arthur's palace at Camelot at the time of New Year's, and challenges any one of the Round Table Knights who is brave enough to accept to a deadly game. The Green Knight announces that whoever accepts his challenge will be allowed a single swing of the knight's double-bladed axe if the challenger will take a return blow from the knight in exactly one year and one day's time. At first it is King Arthur himself who accepts this mysterious knight's challenge, for he knows no fear, as the poem mentions. Plus when this strange Green Knight first offers up his challenge and no one at the table moves, the knight doesn't even hesitate in mocking that court that is so famed throughout the lands, as stated by the knight, "Hah! Is this Arthur's house, hailed across the world, that fabled court? Where have your conquests gone to, and your pride, where is your anger, and those awesome boasts? And now the Round Table's fame and its feasting are done, thrown down at the sound of one man's words- and you sit there shaking- at words!"(Ll. 309-315) As Arthur moves to strike the Green Knight with his own axe, the noble Sir Gawain, Arthur's very own nephew, stops the king before he can swing. This noble knight very humble exclaims to his uncle and his king that he should take up the challenge instead of the good king, for as he says, "And I am the slightest, the dullest of them all; my life the least, my death no loss- my only worth is you, my royal Uncle, all my virtue is through you. And this foolish business fits my station, not yours: let me play this green man's game."(Ll. 354-359) When Sir Gawain does in fact swing the axe down upon the green man's head, he beheads the knight; but to everyone's surprise, the green monster rises, picks up his disembodied head, reminds Sir Gawain of his promise, and rides off with his bloody stump of a head in hand.

As the year rapidly passes, and the seasons change from winter to spring to summer to fall and finally back to winter again, Sir Gawain remembers the promise that he made to the Green Knight that he must fulfill. As the poem discusses, Sir Gawain holds many values, and keeping his word is certainly one of them. Sir Gawain also puts his undying faith in Christ and in His mother, Mary. As described in the poem about Mary, "Ð'...And whenever he stood in battle his mind was fixed, above all things, on the five joys which Mary had of Jesus, from which all his courage came- and was why this fair knight had her face painted inside his shield, to stare at Heaven's Queen and keep his courage high. And the fifth of his fives was love and friendship for other men, and freedom from sin, and courtesy that never failed, and pity, greatest of knightly virtues- and these noble five were the firmest of all in his soul."(Ll. 644-655) This passage rather eloquently describes Sir Gawain's beliefs and how deeply rooted they are in his nature. Another value that Sir Gawain holds very dear to him throughout the entire poem is that of loyalty. As portrayed later in the story, whenever the host to the brave Sir Gawain goes out to hunt all day, his wife enters Sir Gawain's bed chambers and constantly tempts him. Because the lord of the castle and Sir Gawain agreed from the beginning to exchange whatever the other won on that day, and since Sir Gawain did in fact kiss the lady on several occasions, when it came time for the two men to exchange what they had won, Sir Gawain would always "return" the kisses that he received from the lady earlier that day. This particular act, although Sir Gawain did not tell the lord why in fact he was kissing him, shows how the brave Sir Gawain is extremely loyal to not only his host, but also to a man, and he honors the vows that the married couple took on their wedding day. Finally, at the very end of the poem, when Sir Gawain returns home to Camelot after his trying adventure, he wears proudly around his waist a green sash. This was the sash that Sir Gawain accepted from the lady of the castle because she convinced him that it would protect him from the axe swing. Since he violated the code in which he gave everything he won to the lord, he proudly wears that green sash as a constant reminder of his sins and how he is determined from then on to never sin again.

As Sir Gawain prepares to face the Green Knight, he addresses his host and hostess with as much kindness as is possible from one man. Every time he encounters the lord coming back from his all-day hunting trips, Sir Gawain greets him as gaily as possible, embracing passionately and never hesitating to give up to the other what the one has won on that particular day. Also, when the lord of the castle is out on his hunting trips, the lady spends nearly all of her time in Sir Gawain's bedroom quarters, tempting him in countless ways. Although the lady is exceptionally beautiful, Sir Gawain refuses her time and time again, never



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