Animalistic Characters in Medieval Times

The many temptations of life bring people to act differently through personality changes. The characters in Sir Gawain the Green Knight change their personalities through temptation. Through the Christmas time, Bertilak, king of the castle, decides to go hunting. While he is hunting, his wife is hunting or seducing Gawain. Men tempted with sex by women often act with certain animalistic instincts; in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by the Pearl Poet, the seduction scene leads Gawain to act upon his animal instincts, which mimic the behaviors of the beasts of Bertilaks’ hunt.The temptation in the first seduction scene and the first hunt scene of the deer relates in both shy and timid ways. When the lady approaches Gawain, he acts shy “laid his head low again in likeness of sleep” (25). Gawain, confused at the directness of the lady, pretends to be asleep. She throws her body at him, which startles Gawain to act ignorant. At the end of the first seduction scene, Gawain says, “I shall kiss at your command” (28). The deer, which at first is shy, but at the end of the hunt is killed, relates to Gawains’ shy behavior, but at the end of the seduction scene is caught and kissed. Although the deer is the shyest of animals, the boar is caught with more use of power and strength. The next seduction and hunt scene revolves around the behavior of the boar. The boar is a quick and aggressive animal. It has a “bloodthirsty heart to quell” (31). Gawain, when approached by the lady in the second seduction scene, acts less ignorant to his position, but temptation draws him to be aggressive. “My aim is to please,” (33) said Gawain. The lady tempts Gawain to such an extent that he tries to resist her by exchanging two kisses with her, instead of sleeping with her. The hunt of the boar caught at last with more strength then the deer, is parallel to the lady attempting to pursue Gawain. He is more tempted to her and finally is caught by power. The temptation of the third seduction scene and the hunt of the fox are the most forceful.Gawain is tempted to the extreme during the hunt of the fox. The fox has a sly and deceiving personality. “He thought through his wiles to have thrown off the hounds” (36). The fox tries to sneak away from the dogs, which happens to be the most outgoing personality characteristic. The third seduction attempts the acme of temptation. The lady enters Gawains’ bedroom half-naked and eager to seduce him. “But more his soul’s mischief, should he commit sin,” (37) thinks Gawain. The fox’s instinct of sly and sneaky relates to Gawains’ thoughts of falling to temptation, but creating sin holds him back. He receives three kisses and a green sash from the lady as she departs. The fox finally hunted by the dogs, and Gawain resisting extreme temptation still shows his sly ways to the end. As Bertilak comes back from the hunt, the deal to exchange what each has received still stands, but Gawain expressing the sneaky ways of the fox withholds to give Bertilak the green sash. Temptation caused Gawain to lie to Bertilak. The shy behaviors of the deer, the aggressiveness of the boar, and the sneaky ways of the fox all resemble the personality of Gawain. The hunt of the animals and the pursue of Gawain happen at the same time, and the Pearl Poet creates a strong symbolism between the two. The symbolism is of men falling for temptation in shy, aggressive, and sneaky ways The similarity between the animal and the human is not only similar characteristics as in temptation, but the different animal traits used in the human personality.


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