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Gawain And The Green Knight (Shakespeare)

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March 5th: Assignment Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (for those who missed class)

1. The character of Gawain is described as a very noble knight, perhaps even one of the greatest knights that have existed. He is a nephew of King Arthur, which lands him a lot of respect amongst his peers. As a noble knight, this story doesn’t really reflect his character well, seeing as he breaks a promise and shows weakness. This isn’t typical for the role of knights in old-English literature. In French stories Gawain has several roles (depending on the story). Sometimes he is a symbol for great courage, honesty and nobility. Sometimes he is used to (according to the internet): as a proud and worldly knight who demonstrates through his failures the danger of neglecting the spirit for the futile gifts of the material world.

2. The Green Knight could symbolize the devil, but there is discussion about that. Anyway, anywhere where the Green Knight occurs he tests knights. Through his outrageous propasal during the feast, he tests which knight would be brave enough to face take him up on his offer. The Green knight has an almost supernatural quality to him, and after doing some research on the internet, I found out that he is often thought to be symbolising fertility, death, wildness and foreboding in the primeval world. This is noticeable in the story, because all the characteristics that he is meant to symbolise play a part in this poem.

3. After Bertilak and Gawain make a deal to give each other everything they received during the day, Bertilak goes on three hunts and Gawain has to resist the temptation of Bertilak’s wife three times.

On the first hunt, Bertilak goes hunting for deer. He would have to use great speed, and have a lot of patience and stealth to hunt this animal.

Back at the castle, Gawain uses the same technique to resist Bertilak’s wife’s advances. When he is first approached by the wife, he lays still and pretends to be asleep. He uses stealth and alertness to evade her temptation. In fact, both men used the same technique to achieve their goals ( to catch deer and to remain honest).

The following night, Bertilak goes out to hunt a vicious boar. In this hunt, there is a lot of danger. The quarry is more foreward, and so is Bertilak’s wife. Different skills have to be used. You can imagine that for both situations, you have to use stamina and aggressiveness, as well as (mental and physical) strength. Gawain keeps insisting that he doesn’t want to abuse his hospitality. Even though, he admits that he finds it difficult to deny the wife’s advances.

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