In the 14th century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the character of a knight Sir Gawain is a perfect example of the chivalric behavior of a Middle Age knight. The poem provides the reader with the insight into the time when knights were guided by ten rules of the Knights Code of Chivalry. Sir Gawain is one of the most famous and noble knights of the King’s Arthur’s Round Table.
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The character of Sir Gawain demonstrates the chivalric code of the 14th century and the main values that were assigned to the knights. They were loyalty, valor, honesty and honor. Sir Gawain demonstrates these values in his thoughts and actions and he does the things that one of King Arthur’s knights is supposed to do. He is loyal to his King, obedient to the God’s law and experiences a court love with the Lady.
Sir Gawain is a perfect knight of the Round Table. He demonstrates his loyalty to the King when accepts the challenge of the Green Knight in order to protect the honor of the King. Thus, Gawain demonstrates the loyalty and his obligations to Arthur. In addition, the Green Knight’s challenge during the Arthur’s Christmas feast was the opportunity for Gawain to prove his courage.
Sir Gawain demonstrates his bravery replying to Green Knight’s words “Did I flinch, or flee from you when your blow felled me?” (Cooper 81) with the words, “Enough! I won’t flinch when you hack!” (Cooper 81). He also fights the dark knight and other beasts without a fear in his heart (which is one of the characteristics of a real knight) and proves the statement told about him at the end of the poem, “…Gawain, his name is too noble, he’s never afraid, nowhere…” (Cooper 81).
As all Arthur’s knights, Sir Gawain believed in God’s law and was governed by Christian rules. He believes that God will protect him, “So armored as he was, he heard a mass, Honored God humbly at the high altar” (Cooper 74).
However, his religious ideas contradict one of the “knight’s rules” of the court love. It becomes obvious when he meets Lady Burdilac. On the one hand, God’s law forbids any love affair with a married woman; on the other hand, love for a woman inspires a knight for a feat of arm. In spite of this, Sir Gawain overcomes the feel of temptation and resists Lady Burdilac’s seduction. It is another evidence of his chivalrous behavior.
Sir Gawain is described as a hero because he obeys the chivalric code which makes him a reputation of a heroic knight and people in the kingdom recognize him as an honorable knight of the Round Table. Sir Gawain passed successfully all the trials that he met on his way. In addition, the knight proved to be an honest man. He tells about the story with the Lady to King Arthur’s court. However, the court decides to transform Gawain’s girdle into honor and rank him as one of the most honorable Knights of the Round Table.
Thus, Sir Gawain is the best example of the chivalrous behavior. During his adventures he demonstrates the qualities that a King Arthur’s knight should possess. He fights against Green Knight and other beasts, he resists the temptation of the Lady Burdilac and he proves his loyalty to God and King.
Cooper, Helen. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Verse Rranslation. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998.