Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Chivalry Analysis

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In the in the 14th century medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Brian Stone, chivalry is a main virtue that the characters strive to live by and pursue even to their deaths. Chivalry itself is a religious and moral code suggesting that the ideal knight lives by truth, loyalty, respect and Christ. In the text, Sir Gawain, a chivalrous knight of Arthur’s round table, is sent on a quest to be struck by a blow after chopping off the head of the Green Knight during Christmas time. Chivalry, in this situation, dictates that Gawain should live by his word, lest he be known and ridiculed for his cowardice. However, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight demonstrates how the theme of mercy recurs within the standards of chivalry. In …show more content…
Gawain is sleeping in Lord Bertilak’s bed when the lord’s wife comes in and climbs in bed with him. The lord’s wife tempts him to have sex with her, but he thinks to himself, “still, it would be more circumspect...to speak and discover her desire in due discourse” (III.48). Gawain 's thoughts demonstrate that it would be unchivalrous to take the lord’s wife, yet that it would be culturally acceptable to flirt with her when he says, “discover her desire in due discourse” (III.48). He continues flirtation until mass, but the next day, she puts him into an even more binding situation by challenging his manhood. She says, “It seems to me strange, if, sir, you are Gawain/ A person so powerfully disposed to good,/ Yet nevertheless know nothing of noble conventions,/ And when made aware of them, wave them away!” (III. 59). She tests by telling him that he is powerful and can have her when he wants if he is truly Gawain. Here, Gawain must choose whether to be unchivalrous to his host and have sex Lord Bertilak’s wife, or to degrade his own reputation as a man. Referring to the waved away noble conventions, Gawain says, “What… I am not aware of one” (III. 59). Gawain chooses to swallow his own pride for the good of Camelot’s and his reputations, so that he remains respectful to his host. He could have reported the Lady to Lord Bertilak, but he chooses to keep their …show more content…
Gawain is only at fault because he values chivalry, a flawed virtue, more than pure mercy. However, he is forgiven for his sins because he himself shows mercy. Lord Bertilak even calls Gawain “the most perfect paladin ever to pace the earth” (IV. 95). Gawain only sees himself poorly because he doesn’t see that mercy is the most important virtue. Arthur, Lord Bertilak and Gawain all use mercy to heal, but not to hurt, which is why they are so admired. Chivalry exposes the most important virtue of all, suggesting that mercy is the new starting place for better and more reformed

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