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A Look At Evil In "Sir Gawain And The Green Knight" And The Prologue To "Canterbury Tales".

1477 words - 6 pages

In medieval times, purity and virtue were much-admired traits. Evil was hated by all, and looked lowly upon by all members of society. In "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and "The Canterbury Tales" the respective authors tell of how evil, although believed to be a trait of low beggars and such, could creep its way into the higher rungs of society, and through certain circumstances, force all kinds of people to selfish acts of greed.Sir Gawain the glorious is the epitome of good, and all that chivalry stands for. He is very attracted to the lady of the castle, who has cheeks of "red and white, lovely to behold, and small smiling lips." She walks into his room as he is asleep, and points out that they are alone, the men are out hunting, and the servants in their beds, and tells him that he is "welcome to [her] company." She bestows praise on him with much gusto, telling him that "[she] has [Sir Gawain] which [all women] desire." She continues, saying that if she was fortunate enough to have "the wealth of the world in her hand, and might choose a lord to her liking, then ... there should be no knight on earth to be chosen before [him]!" Yet, even after she, "the brightest of maidens" made as though she loved him, Sir Gawain turned her away, resisting temptation to commit adultery, a grave sin; confirming his chivalric duties.Nevertheless, Gawain is not perfect and when the time comes for him to fulfill his half of the covenant, he is petrified. Yet, his sense of duty convinces him to continue, and "he [proffers], with good grace / his bare neck to the blade, / and [feigns] a cheerful face: / scorned to seem afraid." (350-354) Proving this fear, on the first strike Gawain confirms that he loves his life too dearly, and:"Had the blow he bestowed been as big as he threatened, / A good knight and gallant had gone to his grave. / But Gawain at the great ax glanced up aside/ As down it descended with death-dealing force, / And his shoulders shrank a little from the sharp iron." (358-362)Realizing that living with the shame of breaking a promise is not worth living at all, Gawain said, "'Strike once more; / I shall not flinch nor flee; / But if my head falls to the floor / there is no mending me! / But go on, man, ... For I shall stand to the stroke and stir not an inch / Till your ax has hit home - on my honor I swear it.'" (374 - 381) The Green Knight then pretends to strike once more, but withdraws at the last instant, commending Sir Gawain on standing his ground like a true Knight. Upon hearing this Gawain was "gripped with rage," (393) furious that someone would dare question his courage for the second time, and almost tries to provoke the Green Knight to "thrash away," since he "[tires] of [the Green Knights] threats:" Gawain even taunts the Green Knight, poking fun at him: " You make such a scene, you must frighten yourself." (393 - 395) Although fear for his life led Sir Gawain to go back on his word, and flinch when the ax was about to land, he...

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