he chivalric code is a very complex, and perhaps somewhat foreign concept to a modern person. There are many rules and taboos that a knight must obey. Indeed, the very concepts of honor, love, and humility have been raised to the highest conceivable power, making it almost impossible for a mortal to become a true, perfect knight. Sir Gawain, in the passage [Norton, 1535-1622] of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, proves himself to be an ideal symbol of chivalry. One of the symbols of knighthood is a lady of knight's heart; knight's behavior with ladies is important in general, and Sir Gawain behaves as a true knight with the hostess of the castle. Another important side of being a knight includes the skill of carving an animal, and that is also described in the passage.

One aspect of being a knight is choosing a lady of his heart. The knight is supposed to perform noble tasks in her honor, thus glorifying her name. Love is knight's inspiration for all of his actions, and when he thinks he has done enough glorious deeds, he comes back to his lady. If his lady is kind enough, she will marry him, unless she is already married. In the passage, the host's wife tries to seduce Sir Gawain. However, she is not the lady of his dreams, and since Sir Gawain follows the principle -- "to remember a knight is to reflect goodness in everything he does, for that is what makes a knight honorable, " he politely turns her offer down. It is possible that Sir Gawain refuses hostess' charms because he is afraid of her husband; however, with the whole story evolving around Sir Gawain's nobility, it is highly unlikely that this is a reason for him.

Sir Gawain does this in a way that does not make the hostess feel bad in any way. He says that he is pleased that "The one so worthy as you would willingly come And take the time and trouble to talk with your knight And content you with his company" [Norton, 1537-1539], intending to show her that he is not worthy enough of her love. All he can do is "to please, as honor behooves" [Norton, 1547] and only because honor obliges him. So she tests him and tries to lure him to sin, but his defense is impeccable. The lady realizes that Sir Gawain is truly noble, without any flaws, so she kisses him and leaves.

Another aspect of being a knight is to know the art of hunting. According to the chivalric ideal, the art of hunting is just as important for a knight as the art of using different weapons or having a lady to serve. Slaughtering and preparing a dead animal, a boar in this case, is done according to the proper rules.

In the passage, the art of dressing the dead animal is described in detail. Only a "worthily skilled" person, "wise in woodcraft" [Norton, 1605], can perform this act. Most of the time, as it is shown in the passage, the butchering of the animal is done by the lord himself. It should be done in a certain way - he should cut the animal in certain parts, draining the blood properly, throwing away certain parts of the animal, or feeding them to the dogs. It is described as follows:

"He severs the savage head and sets it aloft,
Then rends the body roughly right down the spine;
Takes the bowels from the belly, broils them on coals,
Blends them well with bread to bestow on the hounds.
Then he breaks out the brawn in fair broad flitches,
And the innards to be eaten in order he takes.
The two sides, attached to each other all whole,
He suspended from a spar that was springy and tough;"
[Norton, 1607-1614]
The almost ritual procedure of hunting and the subsequent carving and preparation of meat are riveting in their strict observance. The chivalric code is full of rules for the knight's conduct in any situation, one example of which is hunting and carving animals.

There is, however, one central idea that every knight is a servant; a knight is the one who does only good in the name of love and never brings dishonor to anyone. In this second test, Sir Gawain proves to be a true knight when he is tempted by the hostess of the Green Castle. So far nothing can turn him from his path, for he is a true knight.



  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H.Abrams, et.al. Volume 1. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993. 200-254.
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Ed. J.R.R.Tolkien, E.V. Gordon. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1967. Online. Internet. Available HTTP: http://www.hti.umich.edu/english/mideng/index.html

    Created by Svetlana Kolomeyskaya
    December 1998