Christianity in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Illustration of Sir Gawain and the Green Knigh...

Illustration of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, from the late-fourteenth-century Pearl Manuscript (Cotton Nero A.x) in the British Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The influences of Christianity in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are obvious right in the beginning of the poem. There are many direct mentions and numerous indirect allusions. For example, in the beginning of the poem we are told that the events are taking place “at Camelot one Christmastide” (22) where “all delights on earth be housed there together, saving Christ’s self, the most celebrated knights” (23). Later in the story, events take place on Christmas Eve and Christmas, presenting further examples of Christian consciousness and influence on the pagan world. Thus, the poem as a whole can be seen as a Christian festival poem. The constant references to the color green, which represents nature, Earth and paganism, are mixed in with the Christianity. Though the earth has long been associated with paganism, it started to be “claimed by the Church” throughout the centuries (13). Thus, the world presented in the poem exists somewhere along “the shadowy frontier which fails to divide pagan myth from medieval Christianity” (13).

Anonymous.  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  Translated by Bernard O’Donoghue.  New York: Penguin Books, 2007.

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