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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Anonymous

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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An anonymous writer created "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" in the 14th century. The Green Knight attends the New Year celebrations at King Arthur's Camelot to issue a challenge, which was taken up by Sir Gawain. Read more about "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight."

Characters:

  • Sir Gawain: The protagonist of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." King Arthur's nephew and knight. Sir Gawain accepts the challenge from the Green Knight, and then must journey to the Green Chapel to accept a return blow.
  • The Green Knight: A mysterious giant of a man (fairy). He visits Camelot at Christmastime and challenges King Arthur's knights to a "blow for a blow." He demonstrates his supernatural ability by picking up his head after Sir Gawain knocked it off.
  • Bercilak de Hautdesert: Gawain's host is powerful. And, like the Green Knight, he is associated with Nature. (It turns out that he is the Green Knight).
  • Lady: The wife of Bercilak de Hautdesert. The Lady attempts to seduce Sir Gawain. She gives Sir Gawain the Green Girdle.
  • Morgan le Faye: King Arthur's half sister, she is an enchantress and Merlin's mistress. She manipulates the events and charactes in this story. She is also identified as the old woman in the castle.
  • King Arthur King of Camelot. He is young (beardless), and he asks for stories before eating. He is Sir Gawain's uncle, the husband of Guinevere, and the half-sister of Morgan le Faye.
  • Queen Guinevere: Queen of Camelot, King Arthur's wife. She sits next to Sir Gawain at the New Year's feast.
  • Gringolet: Sir Gawain's horse.

Settings / Time of the Year / Major Events:


Fit 1: Camelot / Christmas time

  • The Green Knight's Challenge
  • Gawain beheads the Green Knight
Fit 2: Camelot / All Saints' Day (November 1st)
  • Gawain starts off for the Green Chapel
  • Gawain arrives at Sir Bercilak's castle on Christmas Eve (December 24th)
  • Sir Bercilak issues the second challenge: trophies
Fit 3: Sir Bercilak's castle, Christmas to New Year's Day (December 25th - January 1st)
  • Three hunts: deer, boar, and fox
  • Exchange of gifts

 

Fit 4: The Green Chapel

  • The Green Knight returns the blow
  • The Confessions (the Green Girdle)
  • Unmaskings
  • Return to Camelot
  • Final confession & absolution

Emblems / Symbols:

  • Pentangle
  • Green Girdle
  • Hunted Animals
  • Gawain's journey
  • The Green Chapel
  • King Arthur's Court

Questions for Writing, Thinking & Discussing:

  • Why would the author of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" frame the tale with the Trojan War? How do the characters relate?
  • What is the role of magic? How is the supernatural important to this tale?
  • What is the code of chivalry? How does Sir Gawain exemplify the code? How does he fail the code?
  • How do the descriptions of Camelot compare to the descriptions of Sir Bercilak's castle? How does King Arthur compare to Sir Bercilak?
  • How important is seduction to the story? How does rhetoric relate to seduction in this story? Why are women blamed for all the problems?
  • Why is "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" set around the Christmas and New Year celebrations? What do these holidays represent? How do they relate to pagan and/or Christian ritual?
  • How does Sir Gawain sin? What is his punishment? How do the other characters react to his failure?
  • How are numbers (doubling, tripling, etc.) and colors important?
  • Why is this poem a classic? Why is it important? Why is this poem referred to as an allegory?

 

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