Personification Of Ideologies In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

1215 words - 5 pages

When Christianity was first brought to the isle of England by the Romans in the fifth or sixth century, it heavily influenced the ancient pagan religions that were pre-established by the inhabiting Anglo-Saxons. The two very different faiths quickly began to merge and Christianity adopted certain aspects of pagan mythology before eventually overwhelming it. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight gives the reader an interesting look at the different values of paganism and Christianity. Along with Christianity, the Romans brought massive amounts of infrastructure, a feudal system, and the notion of romantic chivalry. The character Gawain expresses all of the essential elements of chivalry; piety, purity, and humility. In Burton Raffel’s translation of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, the dissimilarities between Gawain and the mysterious Green Knight serve as a microcosm for the contractions among contemporary Christian and pre-existing pagan ideologies.
One key embodiment of the differences between Romantic and pagan doctrines is the contradictions between Arthur’s Court and the Green Knight’s castle. The poem opens with a lengthy illustration of the lavishness of King Arthur’s castle, emphasizing its grandeur and extravagance. The poet points to the “velvet/Carpets, embroidered rugs, studded/ With jewels as rich as an emperor's ransom” (lines 77-79). The poet spends so much time describing the decorations in order to meet the Christian and Romantic principle that a castle must be awe-inspiring as possible as a tribute to God. Conversely, the Green knights castle is very humble. Located on a grassy knoll in the deep woods, his castle lacks the extravagance of Arthur’s court. Rather, his castle is a simple cave. The simplicity of his home is significant because it focuses on a tight relationship with nature, which was very important in pagan ideologies. Essentially a manifestation of chivalry and Christianity, Gawain finds the place not only to be unimpressive, but also a a place absent of God. At first glance, he describes the Green Knight’s residence as “the most cursed chapel I’ve ever come to” and that “Here, the devils of hell/ Could pray their prayers quite well” (lines 2196, 2187-8). Another discrepancy between the two castles is the amount of people that appear in both. For instance, King Arthur is said to be “Surrounded by gracious lords, worthy/ Knights of the Round Table, brothers in arms,/ Reveling in that rich pleasure” (lines 37-40). It is important that his court is bustling with famous knights because they are all there to celebrate Christmas and the new year. Also, the presence of high class company gives the court a a feeling of power and legitimacy. Traditionally, Christianity is a much more social religion. With aspects such as mass and confession, Christianity relies on inter-human interactions to successfully fill its niche. However, when Gawain arrives at the Green Knight’s chapel he exclaims “By Jesus, it’s lonely here” (line...

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