Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain & the Green Knight
One of the poems we read this semester was the anonymous poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This folklore poem combines two plots: the contest of the beheading between Gawain and the Green Knight and the attempt of a lady to seduce Gawain. The longest section of the poem combines the scenes of Bertilak's hunt with those of Gawain and the lady in the bedroom. It seems we are meant to draw some sort of connection between the two events. There appears to be some kind of parallel between the hunt during the day and what happens in the bedroom that same day.
First I think Bertilak is testing Gawain to see if he can be truthful and live up to the chivalry of the Knights of the Round Table. He sends his wife into Gawain's room every day to kiss him and he receives the same amount of kisses back. The Lord might be trying to see how truthful Gawain will be when faced with the decision about keeping his promise with the Lord and exchanging the day's gifts and protecting his own life against the Knight. It appears that Bertilak's wife is the bait that he is using to snare the hero, the moralistic Gawain. Perhaps it is because of his lustful reputation that Bertilak employs such a plan. Gawain tries to be truthful because every time the lord comes back with the hunt, in keeping his promise Gawain kisses the lord on the cheek. But he deceives the lord on the last day because Gawain receives the girdle (ironically it was green) from the lady yet does not exchange it with the lord when the Bertilak brings him the fox. It is like there is two hunts going on: the lady hunting Gawain in the bedroom and Bertilak hunting the animals in the forest.
Concerning the connection between the hunt and the events in the bedroom, the book shows how Gawain is the animal being hunted. For each different animal being hunted, Gawain acts in a different way during the bedroom scene. There are three times Gawain is tempted by the lady and three times the lord goes hunting. The hunt of the animals represents Gawain's struggle in the bedroom. The first hunted animal was the deer. The deer was a startled, frightened animal that was on the run. It was "dazed with dread" as it was turned back and forth by the beaters. It was cornered just like Gawain. When the lady comes to his room the first time, he is like a frightened deer caught off guard by her seduction. He was laying in bed where he pretended to sleep when she first came in and as she sat by his bed he got up, "as startled from sleep". At the end he does give the lady a kiss, but the kiss did not appear to be anything more than a chivalrous kiss that was frequently given at that time. Therefore Gawain did past the test, and that is why he gave Bertiak the kiss when he returned from the hunt. But also Gawain could be giving the lady the kiss to tide her over just for the day, only to savoir his advance and plan for a conquest some time in the future. He did tell the lady that she was the one for him and there was no one more beautiful.
The next day during the hunt, they came across a wild boar. It was a struggle, with each time they shot it with an arrow; it did not pierce its hide. That struggle represents the same struggle Gawain had in the bedroom. The second time the lady came to his room, the fair lady is more persistent making it harder for Gawain not to sin. She talks of how he is the noblest knight of their time and every household knows of his name, yet not one word of love has come from his mouth yet. The author says, "Thus she tested his temper and tried many a time,/ Whatever her true intent, to entice him to sin," (line 1549-1550). Her tenacious attempt