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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

26 Apr

Temptation of Sir Gawain by Lady Bercilak: Cot...

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was great! I was so glad that I couldn’t remember how it ended because I really enjoyed reading it and anticipating the outcome. It was very dramatic!

Sir Gawain was written in the late 1300s, and the author is possibly the same one who wrote Pearl, Patience and Purity, three religious poems. The poem is half-comedy, half-religious character study. It combines chivalry and romance.

The language was beautiful. The book says it is written in the alliterative meter of Old English verse. The alliteration in each line is clever throughout. I almost had to skip ahead because the boar-hunting scene was so real that I really felt for the boar:

But in as much haste as he might, he makes his retreat
To a rise on rocky ground, by a rushing stream.
With the bank at his back he scrapes the bare earth,
The froth foams at his jaws, frightful to see.
….

The boar makes for the man with a mighty bound
So that he and his hunter came headlong together
Where the water ran wildest — the worst for the beast,
For the man, when they first met, marked him with care,
Sights well the slot, slips in the blade,
Shoves it home to the hilt, and the heart shattered,
And he falls in his fury and floats down the water,
ill-sped.
Hounds hasten by the score
To maul him, hide and head;
Men drag him in to shore
And dogs pronounce him dead.

Poor little guy! I also enjoyed Sir Gawain’s vanity when he put on some borrowed clothes at the castle where he rested.

When he had found one he fancied, and flung it about,
Well-fashioned for his frame, with flowing skirts,
His face fair and fresh as the flowers of spring,
All the good folk agreed, that gazed on him then,
His limbs arrayed royally in radiant hues,
That so comely a mortal never Christ made
as he.

Plus, it’s hilarious (maybe not meant to be) that he must confess his indiscretion to everyone at home upon his return. “The blood burns in his cheeks, For shame at what must be shown.”

Great story!

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2 responses to “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

  1. David

    April 26, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    This is my favorite medieval story, easily; I even wrote my undergraduate thesis on it last year! The language is beautiful, the narration vivid and realistic (like you said, the hunting scenes make you really feel for the animal — this was almost certainly deliberate on the part of the poet!), and, I thought, the characters and story are quite deep. I love Gawain — naive and overconfident as he is, I believe he’s really honest and genuine. He has integrity that is lacking in other knights, and he strives for a true chivalry. Absolutely love this poem.

    One note, though: this is definitely Middle English, NOT Old English at all. I can read both of them (with some help). “Beowulf” is Old English, as is “The Dream of the Rood.” But “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is Middle English just like Chaucer. It just happens to be in the North Midlands dialect, from the area around Cheshire, which is very thick and very different from the Frenchified London English of Chaucer.

     
    • The Sidebar Review

      April 27, 2011 at 11:29 am

      Thanks for the heads-up about the Middle English vs. Old English. You’re exactly the reason I started this blog in the first place: I want to learn, and what better way than from other people who know their stuff?! So, please, keep chiming in.

       

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