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Analysis of the Poem "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight"

Updated on December 24, 2021

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is a poem on romance derived from Middle English. The writer who is anonymous, is believed to be one of the famous poets in West Midland. The poet is also credited with many other poems that were written during that period (Black 235). In this poem, the protagonist, Sir Gawain is forced to undergo two tests. He accepts to encounter these tests without the aid of King Arthur’s nights. One of these tests was to behead the dreaded Green Knight, as well as let him to revenge a year later in a chapel. The second test is the temptation of engaging in adultery with Lord Bercilak’s wife, who happens to be the Green Knight. This temptation occurs in the castle of the Green Knight while on his way to the Chapel. These tests and challenges that Sir Gawan passes through are not unique in life. However, what is peculiar is that he is able to triumph most of them and that he is rewarded for his effort and determinism.

Tests of sir Gawain

When the year was coming to an end, Sir Gawain decided to mount his horse and set on a journey to find the Green Chapel. This was a clear indication of Gawain’s braveness. Prior to the commencement of this journey, Gawain had been warned to be aware of not being turned into a betrayer if he became fearful while seeking his quest. While in the course of this journey, Gawain faces self-reluctance, and peril in various ways, as well as the long search for the chapel, which seemed not to bear fruit. Gawain’s experience can be featured as causing an inner turmoil because of struggling with his conscience. Further, the journey was also a test of his faith since had to consistently pray in order to endure the challenges and emotional turmoil he was encountering. Nonetheless, Sir Gawain had to cling on to his faith and regardless of these challenges; he did not renounce or curse his God. When reading the story, we can see that God answered Sir Gawain’s prayers when he finally found a place he could ask for a rest, the castle. However, this castle became the context for Sir Gawain’s next trial. The trial mounts as he takes part in a feast in the court and establishes that a particular lady has a special interest in Gawain. This lady later comes to be identified as Bercilak’s wife, or the Green Knight.

The seduction by the Green Knight is shown as a test. The woman attempts to seduce Gawain while his husband Betilak is on a hunting execution. Interestingly, Gawain resists all advances made by the Green Knight except a kiss, which he went on to confess. Further, the lady also gives Gawain a shash which is meant to protect him from being harmed. Gawain reluctantly accepts the shash and decides not to tell Bercilak where he obtained it. He does these because he comes to develop trust in this material given by him rather than depending on his God for protection. This led to the subsequent downfall of Gawain in the story.

Moral Lessions in this Poem

The story offers a vivid representation of life, the prevalence of challenges, and tests and the outcome of passing or failing to pass these life tests. In this story, Sir Gawain has been used in symbolizing character and morality. This owes to the fact that throughout the story, sir Gawain is depicted as being innocent. Furthermore, Sir Gawain appears not to be afraid in accepting the challenges since he believes that this kingdom will be saved only if he triumphs over these challenges and by the believe in his God. For him, a kingdom with no ruler will be affected by anarchy and hence, he had to prevent these by all means. The acceptance of the challenge from the Green Knight is also a portrayal of what Knighthood represented, fearlessness. People encounter these type of challenges and many more others in their day-to-day life. The paper evaluates the tests, which Sir Gawain goes through, and how his reactions to these challenges offers moral lessons to the feudal and modern society.

Gawain tells of his adventure and shows his green belt and scar when he returns to Camelot. The king is much taken by the tale and orders all the ladies and lords of court to put on a green belt to remind them of their sins. The implication of the green belt is that it is a representation of a sign of weakness and sins of the flesh. This can be interconnected with Christianity, where the sins which Jesus died for are represented by the cross. The symbol is seen on necks, in churches, and as a an invariable reminder of whatever Jesus Christ sacrificed the same way the green belt recognizes the fall of Gawain from perfection. To sum up, I tend to believe that the author specifically used this passage and this story as a whole as a way to teach Christianity aspects, without manifestly coming out and affirming that he is indeed teaching Christianity. All through the story and in this passage specifically, there are several references to things, which relate to the bible such as the tap, the number of three, the asking of green knight in his name and the green be.


I can conclude with certainty that Green Knight is a positive figure. He may not emerge so when he enters the king’s court, but the actions, which follow, justify his positiveness. His speech at the green chapel during the confrontation predominantly highlights his positivity. If anything, the story identifies Arthur’s court as factual villain, for being arrogant, complacent and eventually not being able to live up the Arthurian ideals, which Gawain presented as ultimately becoming the embodiment of them as soon as he repents.


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