Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a poem written during the medieval period about the Arthurian legend. Although the author is anonymous, it is apparent that "the dialect of Sir Gawain points to an origin in provincial England, and it represents the cultural centers which remote from the royal court at London where Geoffrey Chaucer spent his life" (Norton, 200). This poem is considered one of the best works of Middle English literature. One reason is that the author was able to ingeniously combine two different plots, folklore and romance, into one literary work. The other reason is the author’s elaborate, but brilliant usage of alliterations and rhymes.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is about a Green Knight, a figure that many consider to be an immortal, who challenges Arthur’s court. Sir Gawain, the most courageous and noble knight of the court, accepts the Green Knight’s challenge for the sake of King Arthur’s reputation. Believing that he is acting on behalf of the king, Sir Gawain does not know that it is really a test of his own chivalry. The following passage that I will analyze introduces and describes the Green Knight. Here, I will talk about the importance of the knight’s attitude, size, and his greenish color. All these are significant elements, as you will see, that help to demonstrate his condemnation of the court.

The author begins by telling us how the Green Knight breaks into the dining hall as everyone is about to be served their main course, "there hurtles in at the hall-door an unknown rider" (Norton, 205). Although this behavior is very rude, we must be able understand why the Green Knight acts this way because he has absolutely no respect whatsoever for all the knights in the court. In addition, King Arthur is very childish himself, "but Arthur would not eat till all were served; so light was his lordly heart, and a little boyish" (Norton, 204). Thus, having such a weak leader, there is a perfect excuse for the Green Knight to look down upon the court. He feels that the knights in the hall are a shame to the code of chivalry because their power and ability are simply overstated. So, we can see that the Green Knight is fearless of the court, for he knows that its highly praised reputation is undeserved.

Following the description of the rude entrance is the description of the Green Knight's size:

...From broad neck to buttocks so bulky and thick,
And his loins and his legs so long and so great,
Half a giant on earth I hold him to be,
But believe him no less than the largest of men... (Norton, 205)

The above lines add more to the description of the Green Knight’s boldness and strength. Being a giant and the largest of all men, the Knight is once again described as superior to all the rest of the knights in the dining hall: "And formed with every feature in fair accord was he. Great wonder grew in hall at his hue most strange to see" (Norton, 205). The previous line explains how the knights at the court are amazed and shocked by the Green Knight’s monstrous appearance. These lines are important in that they bring out the arrogant character the Green Knight possesses. The author wants us to feel the force of a real knight, one that everyone else in the hall lacks.

After the description of the size, the author continues to discuss the Green Knight’s color, "and in guise all of green, the gear and the man" (Norton, 205). As you expect, the Green Knight’s skin is all green. However, another strange thing is even his personal belongings such as his clothing, shoes, weapon, saddle, and his horse are also green:

...With trim hose and tight, the same tint of green,
His great calves were girt, and gold spurs under
He bore on silk bands that embellished his heels,
And footgear well-fashioned, for riding most fit.
And all his vesture verily was verdant green... (Norton, 205)

The reason why the author chose this color, the way I see it, is because green represents nature. As we will see in later episodes of the poem, the knight’s greenish color implies that no matter how strong a man Gawain is, nature can always overpower him. This is exactly the attitude the Green Knight has had since the beginning of this passage when the he looks down on all the knights and considers them to be corrupt. Therefore, this further implies that the Green Knight is probably an immortal spirit sent from some magical land to teach the people a lesson that they are not the best. Knowing that Gawain is described as the best of all knights, Gawain becomes the first, or the only deserving one, to be tested for real chivalry.

In conclusion, this passage on the description of the Green Knight serves only one purpose, and this is to remind the readers that even though they may appear to be civilized, there are actually many flaws within them which make them imperfect. In this case, the Green Knight is here to tell King Arthur how vulnerable his court actually is. Apart from this, he’s here to test Gawain to see if he is really the noble knight everyone thinks he is.