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Analysis Of Sir Gawain's Character

1111 words - 4 pages

Analysis Of Sir Gawain's Character

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the character of Sir Gawain, nephew of the famed Arthur of the Round Table, is seen as the most noble of knights who is the epitome of chivalry, yet he is also susceptible to mistakes. His courtesy, honor, honesty, and courage are subjected to various tests, posed by the wicked Morgan le Fay. Some tests prove his character and the chivalrous code true and faultless, like the time he answers a challenge although it might mean his death, or remains courteous to a lady despite temptation. Other tests prove his character and the chivalrous code faulty such as the time he breaks his promise to his host, and when he flinches from a harmless blow.

The first test to his courage, courtesy, humility and loyalty toward his king, Arthur, occurs when the Green Knight suddenly appears at Camelot’s New Year's feast. He offers the Round Table a challenge: the game is for a man to strike him with his axe, and twelve months and a day later, the Green Knight will return the blow. When Arthur accepts the challenge, Gawain interferes and asks Arthur with humility and courtesy to “grant him the grace to stand by him” (SGGK l. 343-344). He confesses that “he is the weakest, and of wit feeblest, and the loss of his life would not be a great tragedy at all because his body, but for Arthur’s blood, is not worth much" (SGGK l. 354-357). He asks to be granted the privilege to claim the Green Knight's challenge because it does not befit a king. Proof of Gawain’s character is substantiated by his noble acceptance of the Green Knight’s beheading game in order to “release the king outright from his obligation”(SGGK l. 365). It shows courage and loyalty that even among famed knights such as Sir Bedevere and Lancelot, both worthy of exultation, Gawain is the only one to accept the Green Knight’s terms.

More proof of Sir Gawain’s chivalrous and courageous character is evident when he arrives at Bercilak’s court. The people are honored that their guest is Sir Gawain, the most honored of all the knights on earth, even though Gawain describes himself as young and untested. They whisper to each other that Gawain, whose “courage is ever-constant” and “custom-pure,” will demonstrate and teach them his “command of manners” and “love’s language”(SGGK l. 912, 924, 927). The conversation of the household serves to provide proof of his Gawain's fine character.

The next test of his character comes during his three-day stay at Hautdesert castle. His courtesy and honor are tested when the host’s lady pursues Gawain in order to fool him into action that will destroy his knightly ideal. She tempts him with “bosom all but bare”(SGGK l. 1741). With another man’s wife pursuing him, Gawain must be courtly and polite to the lady yet must deny her advances. She claims that since “he won her favor, he should claim a kiss from her as accords with the conduct of courteous knights” (SGGK l. 1489-1491). Gawain must abide by...

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