Theme Of Honour In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

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In both 1 Henry IV and “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” honour becomes skewed in regards to its definition, and is never given a precise definition. Two standardized definitions of honour include: the quality that allows an individual to have some distinction; or, the trait of identifying and following correct morals (OED, 2015). Both Falstaff’s “catechism” and Gawain’s account of the “green girdle” engage the theme of honour in different but similar ways in terms of the themes of each work. The conditions under which each speech is delivered reveals some of the significance of what is being said about honour. Falstaff delivers his soliloquy alone on stage in the style of a “catechism” (5.1.140), which is a method of teaching by question and answer, …show more content…
Gawain presents honour in terms of what it is not, specifically that it is not, “fault and offence and failure / . . . [or] cowardice and covetousness” (“Gawain,” lines 2507-2508). However, the court undermines Gawain’s efforts, as the green girdle becomes a symbol of honour, as, “each knight who held it was honoured ever after” (“Gawain,” line 2520). The concept of honour presented by Falstaff repeats here, as honour is once again tied to appearance and becomes malleable in its meaning. The restoration of “honour” to Gawain relates to the theme of courtesy, as it is, “the merits of language” (“Gawain,” line 918), or the value of how something is said. However, if honour can have a flexible meaning, then courtesy does as well, since these concepts are not fixed; they are like, “air” (1.5.134). The repetition of synonyms of “fault” (“Gawain,” line 2507) becomes almost excessive, and it seems that Gawain is more concerned with the appearance of being dishonourable than actually

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