First and foremost, a medieval romance is a tale of heroism, adventures, and chivalry. Sir Gawain stands up to protect his lord against someone with magic abilities. Therefore, the piece of literature reveals that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a medieval romance.
Medieval romances have little to do with the modern definition of a romance. The genre of medieval romances was defined by Arthurian prose romances in the late 11th century. Today, romance is a story about love and the hardships that come with it. A medieval romance focuses on tales about heroism and chivalry. You can read more about medieval romances here. The chivalric romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a bright example of this genre.
- What events in the story represent heroism and chivalry? Here are a few examples.
- Sir Gawain takes the Green Knight’s challenge at the New Year celebration, fearing that this must be a trap. By taking the risk instead of his king, Gawain shows a perfect example of what it means to be heroic and selfless.
- In that same scene, Gawain demonstrates a different side of chivalry – commitment. The Green Knight technically tricks Gawain by not telling him about his supernatural abilities. Yet, Gawain does not back out of the agreement and keeps his promise to take a hit back in a year.
- By the end of the story, Gawain shows that it is essential for him to be honest. As a chivalrous knight, he willingly demonstrates his failings by wearing the green girdle.
- Also, throughout the story, Sir Gawain is showing fighting fear and anxiety. Despite having to deal with them, he does not back down from following the agreement. This is another example of a chivalrous knight’s quality – courage. As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
These moments in the story stand out in Jessie Weston’s translation of the poem. He attempted to keep them as close to the original as possible.
Apart from representing chivalry and heroism, a medieval romance usually focuses on adventures, which are present in this story. The main character follows an adventure to find the Green Chapel, where the Green Knight awaits him. On his escapade, Gawain meets the lord of a castle and an old lady. They turn out to be The Green Knight and Arthur’s half-sister. Through traveling, a hero must overcome challenges and go through character development. For Gawain, this step forward happened when he was unable to put his life above honesty.
In the end, Sir Gawain wore a green girdle like an honorable man who is not afraid of his sins. He is now forever humbled and demoralized. When he returns to the castle, he sees other knights as naive children. After witnessing the grim reality of how one can fail to stand up to their idealistic standards, he matures. He does it in both ways: as a knight and as a man.
Overall, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a perfect example of a medieval romance. The reason behind it is that this story follows an adventure on which a knight exhibits heroism and chivalry. Moreover, he develops his character along the way.