"The Introduction" (1-59)


Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written in the late fourteenth century. Its author was unknown, but he or she was a contemporary of Chaucer. The poem consists of two plots: one is the challenge between Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in a beheading game, and the other is the temptation of Sir Gawain by a lady from a beautiful castle. The outcome of the challenge as well as the life of Gawain is made to depend--though Gawain does not know it--on his behavior at the castle. The temptation is a test of chastity and honorable conduct towards a lord. The introduction of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight gives us a picture of King Arthur's kingdom. It describes the knights and the joy of all Arthur's people.

The poem begins and ends with the mention of the fall of Troy. It talks about the warriors who survived and settled in different areas 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 towers 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)

(Aeneas rescuing his father from Troy)

Felix Brutus is the legendary founder of Britain, the great-grandson of the treacherous knight of Troy, Aeneas. Aeneas,from what I found from an outside source, says he is a traitor because he overthrows the king of Troy and negotiates with the enemy (the Achaeans) or Greeks who come into the city. Because of this, the Greeks let him and his family to safely leave the city.

In the second stanza, the author chooses to talk about the many marvels that happen in the merry land of Britain. He says King Arthur is the most courteous of all British kings. The author believes the tale that he is about to tell is the best of the Arthurian legends:

As it was fashioned featly

In tale of derring-do,

And linked in measures meetly

By letters tried and true. (Norton 203)

The author is saying that this tale is about brave deeds, and is reliable and true. After reading the whole poem, I think the author has proven himself right. Sir Gawain, a knight, as well as the nephew of Arthur, is the only one brave enough to take the challenge of the Green Knight.



The third and final stanza of this passage is about the celebration of Christmas and feast takes place at Camelot, the capital of Arthurís kingdom. It is a place full of joy and happiness. The king is seated with his rightful brothers at the Round Table, and the party lasts for a full fifteen days. There are jousting tournaments, dancing, and singing among the noble knights, and the loveliest ladies:


Happiest of mortal kind,

King noblest famed of will;

You would now go far to find

So hardy a host on hill. (Norton 203)

These few lines mean that Arthur is such a good host that is hard to find anyone like him on earth. However, after the appearance of the Green Knight later on in the poem, the picture of the perfect court seems to change. None of the loyal knights are willing to take the challenge except Gawain.

The first three stanzas ofSir Gawain and the Green Knight give us a general idea of the kingdom of King Arthur and descriptions of his knights. The way the author emphasizes the joy inside the kingdom is a little exaggerated that causes us to doubt the actual environment inside. The tale that is about to begin is about a Green Knight who is going to test the courtesy of Arthur's knights. However, his appearance will reveal that Arthur's court is not as it is initially described. The reality is when they're about to face death, the knights seem to step back and protect themselves instead of saving the king from the potential humiliation that he faces.