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Courtly Love In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Essay

This is the central conflict which Gawain must deal with in his quest. He is forced to confront the forces of Nature ­ both external and internal -- in the form of the Green Knight, the winter landscape, his own sexual desire, and ultimately, his own fear of death. Throughout, Gawain counters this with his own faith in God and in chivalric values. But in the end his natural fear of death overcomes his sense of human morality, causing him to accept the green girdle. And when Gawain returns to human society at the end of the poem, it is with a sense of unease, having realized the power of Nature in comparison to his human beliefs. Throughout the poem, we see natural settings and impulses constantly opposed to those of human society and civility. And while humans shy away from their inevitable death, it is Nature which can continue to restore and regenerate itself, as seen in the indestructible Green Knight and the passing and resurrection of the year.

The poem is full of detailed descriptions of human constructs, like armor, clothing, food, architecture, even the cutting of hunted deer. There is a ritualistic, overly technical sense to these descriptions, where the poet seems to be hinting at the superficiality of these human constructs and questioning their purpose. For example, the concept of Courtly Love is one such elaborate human construction, but in Fitt III, it is essentially parodied in the conversations between Gawain and Lady Bertilak. And Gawain's sumptuous armor, no matter how well-forged or polished, will be of little use to him when he receives the exchange stroke from the Green Knight. In comparison to the powerful descriptions of natural forces, these human constructions appear silly, excessive, and ultimately futile.

Perhaps the most significant of these human constructions is chivalric code which forms such an essential part of medieval literature and of Gawain's belief system. Gawain is the very embodiment of chivalric values, yet his encounter with the seductive Lady Bertilak forces a crisis in the chivalric value system: should he honor the requests of the noble lady or remain faithful to his lord? Upon his return to Camelot, King Arthur does not even detect the moral crisis within Gawain. And most unexpectedly, the "test" of Gawain's chivalric values have been in fact a game engineered by Morgan le Fay for a less-than-noble purpose. Disillusioned, the once-idealistic Gawain finds that the code of chivalry which once formed his moral core has now been shaken.

In contrast to the questionable nature of the chivalric code, the poet upholds Christian faith as the ultimate, saving grace for humanity. Ever pious, Gawain continuously finds guidance in God: from the image of the Virgin Mary on the inside of his shield to his prayers while journeying alone, to his narrow escape from the adulterous temptations of Lady Bertilak. It is, in a sense, faith in God which enables mankind to negotiate between the dangers of human society and the dangers of the natural world. To affirm this, the poem concludes with a supplication to Jesus Christ, the Savior.

Despite its Christian message, the poem has strong roots in Celtic pagan myth. There are many elements common to pre-Christian Celtic mythology, such as the waiting period of twelve months and a day, the Beheading Game, and the Temptation Game. The Green Knight himself is a strongly pagan character, similar to the Green Man or Wild Man of the Woods who symbolizes fertility in folklore. Gawain's journey can even be seen as the hero's archetypical encounter with the Otherworld, an essential theme in pagan belief. The Pentangle is often a pagan symbol; thus Gawain' s shield, with the Pentangle on one side and the Virgin Mary on the other, comes to represent the dual pagan/Christian nature of the poem.

The poem contains many conventions of the medieval romance tradition, but in many ways it does not celebrate the genre. Many elements verge on parody; others seem deliberately excessive. The conversation between the seductive Lady Bertilak and the diplomatic Gawain satirizes the language of Courtly Love, the descriptions of armor and clothing can be over-the-top, and the poem does not conclude with the resolution of the typical romance. Instead, there is a sense of unease, as the poet concludes what seems to be a subtle questioning of the romance genre.

Biblical parallels can be found in the appearance of Bertilak's castle (Paradise) and the role of his wife as temptress (Eve). Accordingly, Gawain loses his moral innocence when his value system is shattered by the end of the poem. Such an allegory emphasizes once more the poet's Christian message, and the relationship between mankind and the divine.

The characteristics of a medieval romance include chivalry, a knight's brave actions, a high esteem for women, a fairy-tale setting, a simple plot, a quest for love, and supernatural elements, such as wizards, witches, and dragons. 

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was written in the late fourteenth century, is a good example of the characteristics of a medieval romance. First, it features King Arthur and the knights of the round table. King Arthur and...

The characteristics of a medieval romance include chivalry, a knight's brave actions, a high esteem for women, a fairy-tale setting, a simple plot, a quest for love, and supernatural elements, such as wizards, witches, and dragons. 

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was written in the late fourteenth century, is a good example of the characteristics of a medieval romance. First, it features King Arthur and the knights of the round table. King Arthur and his knights followed a code of chivalry, which included having honor, bravery, loyalty, and gentlemanly manners. It also included committing acts of selflessness for the benefit of others.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight fits the characteristics of a heroic knight as the protagonist in a medieval romance. Gawain is challenged by a mysterious green knight to cut his head off with a splendid looking ax. He does this with the understanding that the green knight will return in one year and one day to do the same to Gawain. Gawain beheads the knight in one stroke, showing bravery and courage. Supernaturally, the green knight does not die, and he picks up his head and promises to return.  

Later, Gawain sets off on a quest to find the green chapel so that he can fulfill his side of the bargain. This shows his honor, as he is keeping his word even unto death. It also shows his bravery by allowing the green knight to behead him. These are two characteristics of a medieval romance.

On his journey, he meets  Bertilak de Hautdesert, the owner of a beautiful castle, and his wife. Lady Bertilak tries to seduce Gawain, but he refuses her advances and acts honorably toward her, being careful not to offend her, thus displaying a chivalrous attitude. 

When Gawain meets the green knight, he submits to the beheading, but the green knight only causes a scratch on his neck. Then he reveals that he is really Bertilak and has been transformed by magic. This is another characteristic of a medieval romance—supernatural elements. Bertilak tells Gawain that the whole thing was a trick, set up by the sorceress Morgan Le Fay, to test King Arthur's knights. Gawain is afraid he failed the test, but Bertilak assures him that he conducted himself admirably.