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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Analysis

Updated on August 23, 2012

Role of host’s wife in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The host’s wife plays a major role in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. She makes the story move as she finally makes Gawain surrender to sin.Gawain is invited to the castle to celebrate the Christmas feast by the host, Bercilak de Hautdesert. There he meets the beautiful wife of the host. Evening we see the host inviting Gawain to chat by fire. Gawain greets Host’s wife with a kiss. Bercilak leaves for the hunt in the morning and Gawain sleeps in his bed in the castle. He is however awakened by the host’s wife. She tries to attract the chivalrous knight. Gawain however did not agree with the advances of the beautiful lady. He refused to be with her without offending her. They just kiss each other and exchange compliments. The second day also the lady again enters the room of Gawain’s chambers and kisses him twice. The third day also lady enters Gawain’s chamber and kisses him Gawain three thrice. She demands a love token, a ring or a glove from him. Gawain, however, refused to yield to her. He refused to take anything from her and also showed his disinterest in giving any love token to her. Here she reveals the secret of her green girdle that she wears. She says that it is a magical with protecting power. The host’s wife tries to seduce Gawain daily when he stayed in the castle. Even though the poem explains her just as a beautiful young woman, she is a clever debater and a smart reader of Gawain’s behavior. We see her arguing her way by trying to seduce him. She is flirtatious and intelligent. Finally she becomes yet another pawn in Morgan le Faye’s plot.

The host’s wife cleverly attempts to destroy the chastity of Gawain. She makes careful moves to catch Gawain in her trap. We see her telling that “Sir, if you be Gawain, it seems a great wonder—A man so well-meaning, and mannerly disposed, And cannot act in company as courtesy bids, And if one takes the trouble to teach him, ‘tis all in vain. That lesson learned lately is lightly forgot, Though I painted it as plain as my poor wit allowed Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. She gives this comment on the second morning of Gawain’s game with the host. She challenges Gawain’s name and reputation as she attempts to get what she wants.

Green Girdle of the host’s wife, a symbol in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Green Girdle of the host’s wife is an important symbol in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The meaning of the girdle, however, changes over the course of the narrative. The green girdle is made of green silk with embroidery made of gold thread. The colors of the girdle are linked to the Green Knight. According to her, the girdle has the power to protect its wearer from any harm. However we find later in Part 4 that the girdle seldom possesses any special power. When Green Knight makes his identity known we see Gawain cursing the Green Girdle as signifying cowardice and an excessive desire of mortal life. We see him wearing it from then as a symbol of his sinfulness. In order to express their support Arthur and his followers use the green silk baldrics that appear similar to Gawain’s girdle.

The host’s wife plays a major role in the poem as she finally succeeds in making Gawain fall. Her Green Girdle makes Gawain fall as he failed to tell the whole truth. We see Gawain finally becoming guilty of his sinful nature and deciding to wear the girdle on his arm as a reminder of his own failure. He compares himself to the famous biblical figures that sinned by the deceitful tricks of women. The host’s wife succeeded in making Gawain fall in sin and ultimately looses the battle. She is the key figure in the story. She makes cunning moves and succeeds ultimately. He succeeded in convincing Gawain that the girdle has extraordinary powers. She makes him accept the girdle, which finally made him lose the game. Even though she failed in seducing him and destroying his chastity, she made him finally fall into the foul trap. Gawain himself finally accepts that he fell into the sinful trap of women like the biblical characters Adam and Samson who failed in their life because of women.

Role of the queen in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The queen plays a major role in Beowulf as the host’s wife did in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The chief purpose of the Queen's is to serve the courts as "weavers of peace". The queen however exhibits the nature of males. The masculine queen exhibits the power and skill of a male. The violent queen shows the feminine power. Even though she is a female, she is ultimately masculine as she succeeds capturing power. She exercises power in the same way that Beowulf does. The queen represents the power of the feminine characters. We do understand from this masculine queen that it is performance, not biology that determines gender. The queen in Beowulf is similar to the host’s wife in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The queen plays a major role in Beowulf. She proves that it is possible for women to exercise power like men.

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