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The Chivalric Code Essay

1134 words - 5 pages

The Code of Chivalry
The chivalric code was a set of principles developed in the Middle Ages in which it underlined through a knight’s oath the ideals of virtue, honor, loyalty, and honesty to his king, lady, and to God. Written in approximately the 14th century, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” serves to illustrate the ideology of the Code of Chivalry in King Arthur’s knights at the Round Table. Through his tests, Sir Gawain fails to uphold the chivalric ideals of complete honesty, bravery, and morality. His failure to live up to the ideal does not demonstrate his lack of virtue, but denounces perfection and highlights the human ability to err.
Sir Gawain strives to live up to the ...view middle of the document...

A point represents Gawain’s perfection in his “five fingers” because his actions were never sinful (641). Two points of the star illustrate Gawain’s faith and loyalty to the “five wounds/ Christ received on the cross” and his faith in the “five joys” that Mary found in Christ’s birth (642-7). Lastly, the five knightly codes that Gawain follows of benevolence, purity, courtesy, pity, and fraternity represent a point on the pentangle (651-4). The Gawain-poet paints the ideology of chivalry that Sir Gawain tries to uphold and states, “For Gawain was as good as the purest gold--/ devoid of vices but virtuous, loyal / and kind” (633-4). However, by explaining in detail the five sets of five, the poet reveals that it is impossible and unrealistic to uphold such extensive guidelines and principles of perfection.
Sir Gawain fails to live up to his code of honesty. When staying with his host, Lord Bertalik, his virtue is tested three times by the lady of the house. Bertalik makes a deal with Gawain that whatever the host wins in the woods will be given to Gawain in exchange for whatever Gawain receives while he is gone (1105-6). Gawain is tested three times by the beautiful lady of the house, Lady Bertalik. Gawain believed “her face, her flesh, / her complexion, her quality, her bearing, her body, / [to be] more glorious than Guinevere” (943-5). The poet exemplifies the severity of the lady’s beauty and the difficulty Gawain faces in resisting her advances. Lady Bertalik tempts Gawain by visiting him three times in his bedroom. On the first test, the lady tells Gawain that he can do whatever he would like with her and flirts with the knight openly (1237-40). Gawain is conflicted because he must remain courteous, but he cannot give in to her temptations. The lady convinces him to allow a single kiss, and Gawain keeps his word by exchanging it with his host for the lord’s kill. The lady tempts Gawain a second time in his bedroom. He resists her advances, but she gives him two kisses to which he exchanges with the lord for the killed boar. Lady Bertilak tempts Gawain a third time with a gold ring which he does not accept, but she convinces him to take...

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