Character Analysis


Sir Gawain: A Man of Virtue

Nobility, honesty, valiance and chivalry are the values instilled in Sir Gawain. He is a respected knight due to these characteristics. Both Sir Gawain and The Green Knight and in "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell" present these qualities of Sir Gawain. In both tales, he proves these traits through many events. Sir Gawain and The Green Knight proves Sir Gawain’s nobility and honesty while "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell" provides proof of his chivalry and virtue.

The author of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight describes Sir Gawain as "the good knight" (Norton 204) within the first few verses of the story. He is said to be the "most courteous knight" (Norton 215) of Arthur’s court as well. When Sir Gawain stays in the castle with the host and his wife, he is faced with many tests. Although Sir Gawain does not know it at this point, the host is actually the Green Knight. The host, Bercilak de Hautdesert, tells his wife to seduce Sir Gawain as a test of his nobility. The wife, Lady Bercilak, listens to her husband and begins her attempts of seduction of the noble knight. Sir Gawain does not give in even though the host’s wife is boldly flirting with him. Gawain says, "Lady, by Saint John, Lover have I none, Nor will have, yet awhile" (Norton 239). This proves that Sir Gawain is filled with chivalry and virtue because although he could have taken full advantage of the situation, he does not. Sir Gawain has many chances to take advantage of Lady Bercilak, but does not yield to his temptations. He simply receives kisses from the lady, which he returns to the Green Knight in accordance with their agreement.

The knight known as Sir Gawain is one of the most honest and noble. This is presented by Sands in the anonymous work of literature, "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell." His loyalty and nobility to his king heighten his stature as a knight of the royal kingdom. He displays his knowledge of his rank in the comitatus when he speaks to King Arthur:

Is this alle?

I shalle wed her and wed her again,

Thoughe she were a fend,

Thoughe she were as foulle as Belsabub,

Her shalle I wed, by the rood,

Or elles were not I your frende;

For ye ar my king with honour

                                       And have worshipt me in many a stoure. (Sands 334)

The Knoble Knight


The noble knight, Sir Gawain, is responding to the story that King Arthur recites to him. The king is describing the proposition made to him by the hag. The knight, instead of rejecting marriage to the hag, accepts her right away. Even though he knows that she is an ugly hag, he feels it is his duty to his king to marry this woman. The unknown poet of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight commends Sir Gawain’s honor and dignity in much the same way as the anonymous author of "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell." When Sir Gawain confronts the Green Knight upon concealing the belt given to him by the lady, he says:

I confess, knight, in this place,

Most dire is my misdeed;

Let me gain back your good grace,

And thereafter I shall take heed. (Norton 251)

He admits his faults and wishes to take his leave. This instance proves that he is a great knight. The lady, the wife of Bercilak de Hautdesert, says that Sir Gawain is the "noblest knight alive" (Norton 239). Even though the lady makes advances towards him, he does not give in. This is shown in the text in lines 1237-1240:

My body is here at hand,

Your each wish to fulfill;

Your servant to command

                                        I am, and shall be still (Norton 228).  

   KnightThe lady is evidently trying to seduce Sir Gawain. She is stating that he has her body before him to do what he wishes with it. Also, Lady Bercilak mentions that she will be his servant to command. Clearly this is an attempt to the lure the noble knight into a preplanned scheme her husband, Bercilak de Hautdesert, has arranged. Still, the virtuous knight proves that he is a man of integrity and therefore does not succumb to the lady’s propositions.

Sir Gawain is the one who steps up to face the stranger, the Green Knight, when the challenge is presented to the Round Table. He accepts the challenge on behalf of his king, Arthur, when nobody else will. He does not want the king’s life in danger, so he takes the challenge upon himself. He then proceeds to behead the Green Knight. This instance proves that Gawain is a valiant and courageous knight.

These are the characteristics that make up the great knight, Sir Gawain. Sir Gawain’s shows that he is a man of virtue in both the tales. He confirms that he is worthy of being known as the "noblest knight alive" (Norton 239). Both pieces of literature provide, in their texts, proof of Sir Gawain’s honesty, valor, and chivalry.


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