Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written by an anonymous author some time during the fourteenth century, reflects many of the religious, political and social aspects illustrated in other literary works of the time. The author, a contemporary of Chaucer, lived during a time when gallantry, loyalty and honor defined a true man. During this period, Christianity was prevalent, and inherent human weakness was commonly accepted.
The author begins the poem with the mention of the siege and destruction of Troy, said to be a result of the traitorous acts of the "knight that had knotted the nets of deceit" (Norton 3), Aeneas. The knights who survive this destruction go on to build the great empires of that time:
Great Romulus to Rome repairs in haste; / With boast and with bravery builds he that city / And names it with his own name, that it now bears. / Ticius to Tuscany, and towers raises, / Langobard in Lombardy lays out homes / And far over the French Sea, Felix Brutus / On many broad hills and high Britain he sets, / most fair (8 - 15).
The author focuses on Britain, and the worthy knights bred here, saying: "Bold boys bred there, in broils delighting, / That did in their day many a deed most dire / More marvels have happened in this merry land / Than in any other I know, since that olden time" (21 - 24). Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is just one of many stories surrounding these "bold boys" from the original land of the Arthurian legends. "The story is set in Camelot, the court of the legendary King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table, during an extraordinary Christmas celebration. The court is relatively new, and the nobles of the land are still young. During this celebration, a strange, supernatural knight boldly interrupts the festivities to challenge the proud court to a beheading game. Proving his loyalty to the king, and living up to the honor code of a knight, young Sir Gawain accepts the challenge. After beheading the Green Knight, who astonishes everyone by remaining alive, Sir Gawain is led on a journey assumed to end in his certain death. During his adventure, his honor and pride are unsuspectingly put to the test, and his human vulnerabilities are pushed to their limits. After three days of feasting, fighting off the sexual advances of a beautiful married woman, and battling with his own weaknesses, Sir Gawain meets the Green Knight, as he has promised, and is ready to die like a true knight. Only then is Gawain told that this game has not been a test of his bravery as a knight, but rather a test of his moral character as a man. With his almost impeccably honorable actions of the past three days, he has already won his life.
In this passage, lines 1 - 59, we are introduced to the court of King Arthur. Emphasis is placed on the happiness and joy experienced by all during the fifteen-day Christmas celebration, hosted by King Arthur. "High were their hearts in halls and chambers, /...