An Honorable Knight in King Arthur's Court

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

    In a passage of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Part2, 640-712), the main character sits upon his steed, Gringolet, in front of King Arthurfs court, adorned in golden armor.  He is about to depart in order to look for the Green Knight and the Green Chapel since he is the only knight brave enough to take up the Green Knightfs challenge, in which a volunteer is to strike the Green Knightfs head off with an axe, but in return, he has to present himself in the following year to receive a return blow.  By reading this passage closely, readers can see the qualities necessary for being an honorable knight in King Arthurfs court.  These attributes are to be devoted to the truth, to risk his life, and to confront the most difficult challenges.

        Sir Gawain has the symbol of a pentangle on his shield, which represents devotion to the truth and perfection.  Since Sir Gawain is committed to the truth, he supports and protects his lord when the Green Knight suddenly appears at King Arthurfs court. In addition, the pentangle represents the number five, which symbolizes perfection: gfive fives were confirmed in this knighth (Norton 216).  Since Sir Gawain has heightened senses of sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch, he is also considered to have five qualities of perfect knighthood that are geach linked in other, that end there was none, [a]nd fixed to five points, whose force never failed" (Norton, 216).  Wearing the shield with the pentangle is honorable for a knight and can be accomplished only by gaining the token of truth from his lord.

        While the shield with the pentangle represents an honorable knight, his departure conveys the importance of self-sacrifice for honor. Right before he leaves the court, he says ggood dayh (Norton 216) to everyone, who is sending him off, thinking that he shall never return to the court again.  Yet, he courageously departs to look for the Green Knight: gNow armed is Gawain gay, [a]nd bears his lance before, [a]nd soberly said good day, [h]e thought forevermoreh (Norton 216).

        People are sympathetic to Sir Gawain since they disagree with King Arthur's sending him to look for the Green Knight, seeing it as sending him to his death.  Even though people view his journey as a waste, and are gsore aggrievedh (Norton 216), Sir Gawain does not hold himself back from taking up this challenge.  For him, it is very important to risk his life instead of just staying at the court, and not being honorable: gNo longer he abode, [b]ut speedily went his way [o]ver many a wandering road, [a]s I heard my author sayh  (Norton 216). This sentence lets readers see the meaning of risking his life, that it will give him honor.

        On his journey, Gawain faces difficult tasks, and he encounters much hardship and unpleasantness: gAll alone must he lodge through many a long night [w]here the food that he fancied was far from his plateh (Norton 216).  Even under such difficult circumstances, he endures this uncomfortable situation without any complaints and still tries to challenge the Green Knight.  This shows us that accepting a challenge is also one of the major qualities of being honorable.

        The passage in Part2 from the lines 640 to 712 shows us the qualities necessary for being an honorable knight in King Arthurfs court.  Such attributes for knights are to be devoted to the truth, sacrifice himself, and face a challenge under any circumstances.  Sir Gawain, who has such qualities, as well as nobility, courage, and strength, is a good example of an honorable knight.  The issue of honor is an important theme throughout the whole story. Therefore, this passage is a good prediction of what is to come.