Sir Gawain and the Green Knight seems at first sight to be a conventional romance. The poem is so concerned with more than courtesy and courage. In medieval romance, courtesy is revolving around love, and this is particularly adulterous love. The courteous Knight as seen in the old sense is a gallant knight who is understanding and living by the courts social rules. He is also expected to be well skilled in romantic rhetoric and love as well as devoted in fulfillment of the wishes of the beautiful ladies. In the tempting scenes Belak's wife, Gawain is compelled to make a choice between the secular and worldly courtesy, which requires that he should give in to the wishes of the lady, and a different kind of courtesy, spiritual courtesy requires from him fidelity as well as chastity.
It was the woman, the appealing to behold,
that drew the door after her full silent and still,
and warped her way to the bed, and the Knight penitent,
laid him down again lightly and feigned to sleep.
And she stepped quietly and tiptoed to his bed
Refusing the lady without offending her requires that Gawains acts skillfully and courteously.
You are a sleeper unsafe, that one may slip hither.
Now are you taken in a trice, lest a truce we shape,
I shall unite you in your bed that you may trust.
All are laughing the lady made her light jests.
Good morrow, sweet, quoth Gawain the blithe,
I shall work your will, and that I well like
Throughout all of the poem, there is a covenant between the Green Knight and Gawain which is evoking some natural kind of law enforcement that the medieval Europeans used to associate with the Old Testament. The Green Knight seems concerned at first with the letter of the law. Although he already has tricked Gawain to fall into their covenant, he is expecting that Gawain will follow through on the same. Even though Gawain understands that following this letter of the law meant death to him, he is very determined to follow through his agreement till the very end since he is looking at it as his knightly duty.
The world of the Green Knight and Sir Gawain is under the control of a distinct code of ethics. It is particularly the code of chivalry which does shape the actions and values of Sir Gawain as well as some other characters found in the poem. The chivalric ideals are obtained from the Christian morality concept as well as the chivalric proponents that seek to enhance and support models of spirituality in a world that has already fallen spiritually.
The Christian morality ideals together with knightly chivalry have been brought together in the symbolic shield of Sir Gawain. The pentangle is representing the five knights virtues of generosity, chastity, piety, courtesy and friendship. Sir Gawains adherence to the virtues is seen throughout the literary work, yet the poem is examining more than the personal virtue of Gawain. It seeks to understand whether the divine virtue of spirituality can work in an already fallen world.
Arthurs court is heavily dependent on the chivalric code, and the Green Knight and Sir Gawain are seen to gently criticize the fact that chivalry looks into valuing symbols and appearance over truth. Arthur has been introduced to the reader as the most courteous person of all. Evidently, it indicates that individuals in this court are as per their mastery of a particular code of ethics as well as good mannerism.
As the Green Knight is challenging the court, he happens to mock them because they are so afraid of words. He suggests that appearance and words have been given too much power over the company. The court members arent revealing their real feelings, rather than choosing to seem fair-spoken, beautiful, and courteous.
Morpurgo, Michael. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Candlewick P, 2015.
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