French Influence of Sir Gawain and The Green Knigh

t Sir Gawain Green Knight EssaysFrench Influence of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight utilizes the convention of the
French-influenced romance. What sets this work apart from regular Arthurian
or chivalric romances is the poet’s departure from this convention. The
clearest departure takes place at the resolution of the piece as the hero,
Sir Gawain, is stricken with shame and remorse rather than modest knightly
pride, even after facing what appears to be certain death and returning to
his king alive and well. Although this manner of closure would leave much
to be desired for an audience who is interested in reading a ridigly
conventional romance, the coexistence of the romantic convention with the
departure from it inspires questions concerning why the author would choose
to work within such guidelines and what the significance is of breaching
those guidelines. By employing the chivalric convention in romantic
literature and then going beyond it to reveal other ways of thinking, the
writer challenges the very notion of chivalric conventions of the
surrounding social climate. He demonstrates throughout the work a need for
balance. As symbolied by the pentangle worn by Sir Gawain, representing
the balanced points of chivalric virture, each being codependent of the
other in order to remain a whole, the narrative could be considered as a

What accompanies an appreciation for the seemingly sudden shift
from the typical romance at the end of the piece is the raised awareness
that the change does only seem to be sudden. Careful exlporation of the
plot, setting, and character descriptions illuminates several deviations
from the established convention of the ideal society existing within the
text. The effect is then a type of balancing act– blah blah blah

The opening of the piece sets a fairly typical stage for an
Anthurian romance, giving relevant historical and geographical information.
King Arthur’s court is going on as it is expected to be within the social
constructs, merrily feasting and celebrating the Christmas holiday. The
entrance of the Green Knight into Arthur’s court marks a significant event.
He is a courtly figure from their recognizable world. He appears as a
knight ought to appear: tall, handsome, and fashionably dressed; however,
the Green Knight’s adherence to the conventions of the court is offset by
his departure from that world. He has very unfashionable long hair and a
beard; and, most noticably, he and the horse accompaning him are a stunning
color green. The author brings to question what his motives are by
juxtaposing his possession of holly, a sign of peaceful intent, with the
monstrous axe he weilds. The fusion of human and supernatural
characteristics add to the ambiguity of the piece, the balance between
conventional and non-conventional, and give the first sign that the
construction of the narrative is dependent on this balance.

The ‘match’: a game, yet implies death

Arthur swings with the temperment and yet nothing happens. The
response of the Green Knight is completely passive. When Gawain intervenes,
it can be seen in two ways, that he is intervening with the courtly manner
of a true knight of the Round Table, or with an implied criticism of Arthur
for involving himself in such a challenge and on the court for letting this
to take place. This brings about questions of the reputation of the Round
Table and of the truth of the chivalric nature of the knights in the court.


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