Gawain Questions Essay Research Paper To Be

Gawain Questions Essay, Research Paper

To Be or Not To Be?. A knight To be or not to be? a Knight truly is the

question presented through this story, which is a tale of Gawains trials and

tribulations on his journey to the Green Chapel. First, before acknowledging

Gawain as being or not being a knight, one must first know what a knight is. In

reference to the Pentangle a knight or Gawain must be: "? first, he was

faultless in his five senses, Nor found ever to fail in his five fingers, And

all his fealty was fixed upon the five wounds That Christ got on the cross, as

the creed tells; ? That all his force was founded on the five joys That the

high Queen of heaven had in her child. ? The fifth of the five fives followed

by the knight Were beneficence boundless and brotherly love And pure mind and

manners, that none might impeach, And compassion most precious-these peerless

five Were forged and made fast in him, foremost of men." (Ll. 640-655) This

excerpt from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight demonstrates on what a knight

should be when looked upon from the Pentangle mode of being a knight. What

pertain to the Natural/Real Realm would be the five senses and five fingers. The

five senses part is used to gain knowledge of the world and worldly wage. The

five fingers are the deeds that are done. What pertain to the Religious,

Spiritual, Christian Realm would be the faith in the five wounds of Christ would

be Fealty and Force. Fealty is the faithfulness in the five wounds of Christ.

Force or the force in battle is inspired by the five joys of Mary. What pertain

to the Chivalric Realm are Beneficence, Brotherly Love & Truth, Pure Mind,

Manners, and Pite. Beneficence pertains to the generosity that the knight

bestows. Brotherly Love & Truth pertains to the fellowship and truth in

which the knight bestows. Pure Mind pertains to the chastity that the knight

shows through his encounters with women and their temptations. Manners pertains

to the courtesy that the knight shows to the people that he comes upon. Pite, or

piety, pertains to the compassion that the knight shows when he encounters

different situations. (GP) The narrator defines Gawain as being: "? in

good works, as gold unalloyed, devoid of all villainy, with virtues adorned in

sight." (Ll. 633-635) This basically states that he was a model of a good

guy. He kept himself out of trouble, we know this by reason of the narrator

stating that Gawain was the "Devoid of all villainy." This statement

says that Gawain is lacking in any sort of evil. It seems to be that the Green

Knight symbolically represents a villainous being that crashes in on a party to

play a medieval "Russian Roulette." In doing so causes an upheaval

among the Knights of the Round Table. The Green Knight storms in and asks

someone to chop his head off. At this part of the story it seems quite

questionable as to his reasons for doing so. Gawain responds to the beheading

game challenge in a humble, yet heroic sense. After the Green Knight barges into

King Arthur’s court and criticizes the Knights of the Round Table saying,

"Where is now your arrogance and your awesome deeds? for all cower and

quake?"(l. 87, 91) The Green Knight is now saying that the Knights of the

Round Table are cowards. He is calling them out. The only one to accept the

challenge is Arthur strictly to show that he is not a coward. Just as Arthur is

about to decapitate the Green Knight Gawain speaks up and says, "I beseech,

before all here, that this melee may be mine." (l. 115-116) Here Gawain is

speaking up and telling Arthur that if anyone will do this that it will be him.

Gawain shows a great deal of courage in accepting this challenge for the reason

that no one else, aside from Arthur, would except the challenge. Gawain finds

hospitality and shelter at the castle of Bercilak, unbeknownst to Gawain, the

Green Knight. Bercilak made an agreement that "whatever I win in the woods

I will give you at eve, and all you have earned you must offer me." (Ll.

1105-1107) This agreement that was made means that whatever Gawain gets in the

castle he must give back to Bercilak. This agreement is complicated for the

reason that Bercilak’s wife is trying to seduce Gawain. With so some many

Christian elements present, it could be argued that symbolically that Bercilak’s

castle is the Garden of Eden with Gawain being Adam. Here, Gawain enters a place

that is extremely beautiful such as the Garden of Eden would be. God provided

the garden for Adam and Bercilak is the one who provides the castle for Gawain,

so Bercilak could symbolically be God. Therefore Bercilak’s wife would

perceivably be Eve, since she provides the temptation for Gawain. The temptation

would then be "eating the apple," or in Gawains case, submitting to

Bercilaks’ wife’s demands. Gawains chastity is being put on test through

Bercilak’s wife’s constant temptations. Gawain allows the wife to kiss him on

two occasions on two separate days. After the occurrence of these kisses Gawain

goes back to the host and gives him a kiss as well. The only gift that Gawain

did not give to the host was that of the girdle, which in medieval times was a

sign of good fortune. Gawain does not keep his word through the keeping of the

girdle. The narrator said that Gawains’ "scheme were noble," (Ll.

1858) but he still had broken his promise. Gawain leaves the castle in search

for the Green Chapel on New Year’s Day. It seems to be that Gawain is riding to

the Green Chapel, when in fact we, the reader, believe that he is riding to his

death. By going to the Green Chapel Gawain is trying to make himself look as

noble and heroic as possible. By going with the girdle he is making himself look

cowardice and afraid of death, when: "A knight does not rightly have to

fear a bodily wound, since he should receive the world’s praises for it. But he

should fear the wounds of the spirit, which blind, incurable lust inflicts with

fiery darts. Bodily wounds are to be healed, but not Galen will make a man well

who is sick with love." (LL) Gawain even acknowledges his error when he

says, "Accursed be a cowardly and covetous heart! In you is villainy and

vice, and virtue laid low!" (l. 465-466) In this episode the Green Knight

is made out to be, somewhat, of a father figure to Gawain. The Green Knight

corrects Gawains errors and points him in the right direction. The Green Knight

shows Gawain Brotherly Love by not beheading him and informs Gawain of what to

do. The Green Knight may also be seen as a priest absolving Gawain from his sins

when he states, "Such harm as I have had, I hold it quite healed. You are

so fully confessed, your failings made known, and bear the plain penance of the

point of my blade, I hold you polished as a pearl, as pure and as bright as you

lived free of fault since first you were born." The game is finally played

out with the Green Knight forgiving Gawain as shown in the quotation above.

Gawain is being tested in a many different amount of ways; such as Bercilaks’

testing of Gawains truth and manners as well as his chastity through the

temptations with Bercilaks’ wife as well as through the agreement that they

make. As well as the Pentangle test, i.e. Gawain living up to knightly

standards. In most ways Gawain passes the test, such as: Gawain giving back the

kisses, as well as him actually looking for the Green Chapel. He fails through

one thing, which is not giving the girdle to Bercilak. By keeping the girdle

Gawain makes himself seem frightened of death which goes against the concept of

knighthood. A knight should never be afraid of death, which Gawain realizes

after the Green Knight brings up the fact about the girdle. Gawain realizes his

mistake and repents, in doing so Gawain passes the test and the Green Knight

lets him go without chopping his head off. Even though Gawain is not perfect he

is still held with the highest of standards in Arthur’s mind as well the minds

of the other Knights of the Round Table. I believe that Gawain could be

described as a Stoic for the reason that Gawain, as well as Stoics emphasized

ethics as the main field of knowledge. Gawain exhibited Stoicism in numerous

places; one of the major exhibitions was through the symbolism of the Pentangle.

Stoicism was put into play through Gawains inconsistent chivalry with Bercilak

as well as his wife in most cases. Gawain did not allow Bercilak’s wife to

completely seduce him, but Gawain did allow her to kiss him. He upheld most of

the deal with Bercilak, except with the girdle. This is what is meant by Gawains

inconsistent chivalry. In conclusion, through the Green Knight’s tests, we see

that Gawain is not the perfect knight he strives to be. Neither the reader, nor

the Green Knight, nor his fellow knights of the Round Table hold him to this

standard of perfection. Through reading about the turmoil Gawain experiences

thinking about his impending death at the hands of the Green Knight, leads the

reader to understand why he accepts the girdle. It is easy to see why he remains

true until his fear of death overcomes him. All this proves he is only human.

Yet Gawain only sees that he has been inconsistent in upholding the chivalric

code, and this means failure to him. This is an indication of the standard

Gawain has set for himself, thereby showing why he had the reputation he had.

Despite all that happened, Gawain is still a loyal, noble, honest and courteous




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