Chivalry and Heroism in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, chivalry is very important. For example, when Gawain rises from the table during the feast, Gawain is respectful and courteous: “let me rise from this bench and stand with you there, to move from this table without giving offence, if there’s no objection from my lady the queen, I’ll take over for you before all the court” (33-34).  While Gawain is the epitome of a chivalrous hero, King Arthur and the Green Knight also exhibit respect for chivalrous deeds. For example, when the Green Knight first arrives, Arthur introduces himself and invites him to join them. “Sir knight, you are certainly welcome. I am head of this house: Arthur is my name. Please deign to dismount and dwell with us till you impart your purpose, at a proper time” (30). Furthermore, in addition to acting chivalrously, chivalry is also mentioned directly. In response to Arthur’s offer, the Green Knight states: “But my intention was not to tarry in the turreted hall. But as your reputation, royal sir, is raised up so high, and your castle and cavaliers are accounted the best… The most warlike, the worthiest the world has bred, most valiant to vie with in the virile contests, and as chivalry is shown here, so I am assured…” (30). It is King Arthur’s fame and the chivalry of his court that has brought the Green Knight to his door. He notes this fact in his statement, “at this time, I tell you, that [chivalry] has attracted me here.”

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

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