(lines 1 - 59)
Nothing is known about the author of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight except that he lived sometime in the late fourteenth century. This unknown late medieval poet was a contemporary of Chaucer, but resided some 150 miles north of him. The tale deals with a challenge to Sir Gawain's nobility described as an "attempted seduction of the hero by the lady" (Norton 200).
The story opens with mention of the fall of the great city known as Troy. It describes the diffusion of the warriors who survived to various regions of Europe:
Great Romulus to Rome repairs in haste;
with boast and with bravery builds he that city
And names it with his own name, that it now bears
Ticius to Tuscany, and tower raises,
Langobard in Lombardy lays out homes,
And far over the French sea, Felix Brutus
On many broad hills and high Britain he sets,
most fair (Norton 202)
Felix Brutus, one of these warriors, is the great-grandson of the perfidious knight, Aeneas of Troy. Aeneas was "the knight that had knotted the nets of deceit" (Norton 202). The poet describes him as a traitor to his city because he would not hand over his sister, Polyxena, to the authority. Brutus is given the credit of being the legendary founder of Britain, which is the home of "bold boys" (Norton 202). The author tells us that Britain is the home of many marvels.
The last verse of the introduction presents a description of life in King Arthur's kingdom. King Arthur is said to be the kindest king of all: "King Arthur was counted most courteous of all" (Norton 203). The king and his company stay at his capital, Camelot. Among his company are many great knights who sit at the famed Round Table designed by Merlin. There is much feasting and delight among the members of this royal court.
Of course as in any other medieval kingdom, jousting tournaments were held among the knights of the court. These knights are of the most valiant and chivalrous in existence. The lives of these people are filled with joy and glamour. They spend their days gathering, feasting, and rejoicing. The text describes the court of King Arthur as the most comfortable place in the world. The poet continues to describe this kingdom of Arthur's as one where joy and rapture are abundant.
According to the text, the knights here were the most noble, the ladies most fair, and the king the kindest of all on earth. A host such as Arthur could not be found:
Happiest of mortal kind,
King noblest famed of will;
You would now go far to find
So handy a host on hill (Norton 203).
The tale ends with mention of the same great city that it began with, namely Troy.
The introduction of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight sets the scene for the presentation of the tale and its characters. It offers the background to provide a better understanding of the story. Moreover, it presents the kingdom of King Arthur and the culture of the people who live there.
EXIT TO SIR GAWAIN'S HALL