Sir Gawain of The Green Knight: Symbolism, Criticism and Recognition

Sir Gawain of the Green Knight has been widely acknowledged in pop culture. In 2015 Zach Weinersmith published a children novel called Augie and the Green Knight, a which is a story retold but with a female protagonist instead of male. There has also been an illustrated version of the poem published in 2018 by Michael Smith, which is also both faithful and contextual adaptation. One of the most famous movie adaptations of the poem is the one from 1984 titled Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which features Sean Connery as the Green Knight. It has been announced by the BBC on 5th of November, 2018 that a new film adaptation titled Green Knight is in the works and it will be most likely directed by an American filmmaker David Lowery. There also have been numerous adaptations in both theatre and opera, the most recent one, written by Simon Corblehad, had its place in February of 2014 and it was produced indoors in O’Reilly Theatre in Oxford.

In line 304 the word runishly is used to describe the way in which the Green Knight rolled his eyes and looked at the people in the court. The word is proven to have several meanings including aggressively, violently and mysteriously. In this context, however, the meaning that has been chosen for the glossary is strangely. The first two translations of the word in itself include some sense of judgement and a negative function of power and force and that is why they have been excluded. The word mysteriously could be adequate in a way as the Green Knight’s visit has been puzzling, but he was very clear from the start about his purpose, so it was not a mystery to solve for Arthur and his knights for long. The Green Knight, as weird as he was in his appearance and in his proposition, was not a mystery, he was simply a stranger for all the people that he met in the court and this is why the word strangely has been selected.

A similar situation appears in line 311, with the word sourquydrye, the most famous translations of this are either pride or arrogance. It was the pride that was chosen for the glossary, as arrogance in itself is a word offering a negative judgement, and that was not typically connected with Arthurian knight and Arthur himself, as they were most famous for their chivalry, honour and courage.

In line 313 the Green Knight mentions The Round Table and the renown which he has been familiarized with. The Round Table in itself has a very specific place in Arthurian legends around which he and his knights would congregate. It was quite common in kingdoms to have a long and squared table as it presented the hierarchy of said kingdom. People that were sitting close to the king were far more important than the people with a place in the distance As it is suggested by its name, Arthur’s Round Table rejected that idea by implying that everyone sitting there is of equal status. The table was first introduced by the Norman poet Wace, who described between the years 1150 to 1155 in Roman de Brut which is also a literary history of Britain.

Although it is not included in the edited passage above, it is interesting to acknowledge the fact that the poem ends with the line: Hony Soyt Qui Mal Pence, which in Anglo-Norman French translation means: ‘Shame be to the man who has evil in his mind’. This is almost identical to the motto of the Order of the Garter which was found around the year 1350. It can be assumed that a copyist of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight associated this order with the one founded to honour Gawain.

Overall, one of the most interesting critical readings that have been dedicated to Gawain is Richard Barber’s Chapter 9 in The Arthurian Legends: An Illustrated Anthology, in which he analyzed Gawain’s history as an Arthurian figure and his origin in Celtic sources. Another example could be Piero Boitani’s Chapter 3 in English Medieval Narrative of Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century, in which the poem is being introduced as ‘eccentric’, but also as one of the most mature and complex of English medieval romances, which is reached by its psychological realism and playfulness.  

07 July 2022
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now