Role of Religion in Sir Gawain and Othello
Respect for religion and government is an important part of any country, but what happens to a country when these values begin to change? England was beginning to go through this change in 1603 when Othello was written by William Shakespeare. Comparing the religious themes and heroes of Othello to the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight which was written during the Middle English era, will demonstrate just how far England had come. Both heroes are clearly religious, but Gawain maintains his faith until the end, while Othello falls into the snare of temptation. The spiritual hero of Middle English is quite different from the tragic hero of the Machiavellian era.
To begin, look at a night in the life of Sir Gawain. It is Christmas Eve and Gawain is in need. He needs a place to stay in his search for the Green Knight's castle and he has traveled a long way. What does he do? Gawain could boast of his great ability to find his way and gallop on. He could give up and go home as many others would. He could become so completely discouraged after all his hard work with no results, that he wishes someone would just thrust a sword into his side and put him out of his misery. Gawain doesn't do any of those things though. That is just not Sir Gawain of Camelot. He is not that kind of hero.
And at that holy ride
He prays with all his might
That Mary may be his guide
Till a dwelling comes in sight. (736-739)
If that wasn't enough, Gawain continues praying when he realizes that it is Christmas Day and he is missing mass:
I beseech of Thee, Lord,
And Mary, thou mildest mother so dear,
Some harborage where haply I might hear mass
And Thy matins tomorrow-meekly I ask it,
And thereto proffer and pray my pater and ave
He said his prayer with sighs,
Lamenting his misdeed;
He crosses himself, and cries
On Christ in his great need. (753-762)
Immediately after this, his prayer is answered, and fittingly he "offers his thanks / To Jesus and Saint Julian"(773-74). His ride to the Green Knight's castle is called a "holy ride," and he gives honor to not only Christ, but Mary and Saint Julian as well. He almost comes off as self-righteous with his request from Mary for a place to stay so he could hear mass. He doesn't ask for a place to stay so he does not have to sleep on his horse, he asks for a place to stay so he can hear mass. He is not saying a prayer for good luck. It says he prays, "with all his might." He really believes that his prayers will make a difference. He is not the only one because immediately his prayer is answered. This description demonstrates a religious or spiritual hero who depends on his spirituality to get him through tough times. This is further supported by the narrative because it appears in this story that Gawain's prayer...