Part three of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight starts with a deer hunt. Lord Bertilak goes hunting in the forest. Meanwhile, his wife makes sexual advances towards sir Gawain at the castle.
In the third part of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, lord Bertilak, sir Gawain’s host, goes deer hunting at an early hour. While the host is gone, the lady of the court makes sexual advances towards the knight. She employs metaphors, vagueness, and flirtation in attempts to seduce sir Gawain. At the same time, the lord is slaughtering deer in a beastly yet orderly manner.
The author creates a parallel between the two events. The lady’s pursuit of the knight is courteous, well-mannered, and hidden behind the social norms. Still, at the core, the lady’s seduction is as feral as the hunt. Sir Gawain faces a serious moral dilemma. He doubts if he should serve the lady per his bodily desires or adhere to society’s general ethical rules.
For lord Bertilak, society also dictates the conduct of pursuing the prey. The reader learns numerous rules and methods of hunting, cutting, and bringing the deer to the castle. The poet highlights the rituals of the hunt because they allow the action to go smoothly. Rituals also resemble socially dictated tactics the lady uses to hunt the knight. The author exposes the crude base of lust concealed by the formalities.
The parallel between the two events may serve to promote the orderly conduct of love. By the time the poet wrote Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the medieval society’s rules likely became less strict than they used to be. Thus, the author showed how smoothly a deer hunt could go if the rituals are rigid to encourage employing similar strategies for successful romantic interactions.