Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a unique poem which not only tells the tale of a knight (or "knyyt" as it is written in the Middle-English manuscript) who goes on a quest, but also provides a subtle criticism of Arthurian legend by way of telling us how Sir Gawain is a "pearl amid white peas" when he is evaluated by the Green Knight late in the tale (line 2065).
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It is said very rightly that both virtues and evils speak for themselves. A man with good nature and divinely qualities will exhibit actions that are virtuous and honest, while a person afflicted with evil elements will exhibit actions that are wicked and nasty. Same is the case with Sir Gawain who is essentially a man of divinely attributes as depicted in the book “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”. And thus Sir Gawain always acted in the right direction and followed the path of integrity, loyalty, truthfulness, faith in God and Chivalry.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - translation by W. S. Merwin
Published by Alfred A Knopf, 2002, approx 175 pages
Being a knight of the round table, ideals of chivalry are upheld with the brothers of the round table offering to share it on the burden carried by Gawain. Chivalry refers to the individuals actions in relation to the societal acceptable behavior. The knight behaves according to his expectation ensuring a balance in responsibility and expectations in the community. The theme ensures continuity in the poem, and understanding of the hierarchical relationship issues in the society. Thus the occasions on which Sir Gawain has been shown to display his loyalty and chivalry were the moments when King Arthur had accepted the challenge of the Green Knight all by himself and was about to pick the ax to behead the Green Knight when suddenly Sir Gawain leapt to replace his master and took the challenge himself. He displayed tremendous loyalty in sacrificing his life just to save the King Arthur who was also Gawain’s Uncle in blood relation.
Sir Gawain and the Green knight was created five centuries later, in 14th Century, when the Alliterative revival in English literature turned back to the
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Translation by J. R. R. Tolkien
Published by Balantine Books, 1975, Approx 214 pages
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Translation by Burton Raffel
Published by Signet Classics, 2001, Approx 156 pages
After a close study of the book ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ the traits of Sir Gawain as mentioned in the ensuing paragraphs make him the most prominent of all the knights in the Camelot of King Arthur.
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This poem consists of 2530 lines that are arranged into 101 stanzas. It is commonly considered to be a part of the 14th century "Alliterative Revival" and is written in a language dialect that is from the English northwest Midlands estimated to be in the vicinity of Lancashire, Cheshire and Derbyshire. As such, the "Pearl Poet" (most common designation for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight's unknown author, though he is also referred to by some as "the Gawain Poet") is classified as a "northern poet" in contrast to, for example, a "southern poet" like Geoffrey Chaucer.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is usually described as a fusion between two main poetic subject traditions: French romance and Celtic literature.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight essay:
This essay discusses in depth the personality of Sir Gawain as depicted by the author Marie Borroff in her book ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’. By elucidating the outstanding traits of Sir Gawain, we shall show how rightly he has been claimed as the protagonist of the story, and how prominent qualities in his character make him so distinguishing from the rest of contemporary knights of King Arthur’s round table.
Gerould's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a dignified version of the tale with attention given to translation into easy to read prose, instead of lines attempting to duplicate the Pearl poet's structure or alliterative sound scheme.
The end section is a supplementary series of notes on the translation work and is very informative, covering issues important to understanding Sir Gawain and the Green Knight up to the time of this books publication..