Sir Gawain And The Green Knight: Chivalrous: Yes Or No?
He returns to King Arthur’s court with the hard-found knowledge that he is only human and is therefore susceptible to failures in his quest to be endowed with all the true qualities of a knight. As a reminder of this knowledge he gained of himself he wore the green belt “…under his left arm with a knot that lace was fastened / to betoken he had been detected in the taint of a fault;” (4. 2489-2490). His honesty in relating his adventure to King Arthur and the court is the mark of a true knight and speaks well of Sir Gawain because it was a hard task for him to admit his downfall as he proclaims “…This is the grief and disgrace I have got for myself / from the covetousness and cowardice that o’ercame me there!” (4.2509-2510.). As a sign of forgiveness and understanding King Arthur laughingly passes a law that they all will wear a green belt by proclaiming “…every knight of the Brotherhood, a baldric should have, / a band of bright green obliquely about him,…” (4. 2518-2519.). If Sir Gawain is so easily forgiven by King Arthur and everyone in court, is Sir Gawain, perhaps, too hard on himself? He showed true knightly bravery when he stepped in to take the place of King Arthur and assuring the king’s safety. He is slightly lacking in courtesy when meeting Lady Bertilak and the old lady by giving special treatment to the young and beautiful Lady and not to the older lady. His fault of kisses committed while he is brazenly seduced by Lady Bertilak were minor compared to his steadfastness to avoid disloyalty to his host by giving in to the temptations of Lady Bertilak. His complete failure is achieved when he accepts the green belt with the belief that it will save his life. This one action exposes his lack of bravery as a true knight. By