Presented by Matthew Knotts
Thursday, March 9, 2023
6:30 PM, PAC725 Black Box
South Mountain Community College
The story known as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written around 1400, likely in northern England. The author is unknown, and only a single copy of the manuscript survives which contains three other poems. The author certainly was familiar with other Arthurian legends and uses the forms of both pre- and post-Norman conquest poetry to convey Sir Gawain’s trials. The story has been described as a chivalric romance, an adventure, a morality tale, and a myth.
The story begins at Yuletide with a green man on a green horse entering the hall of the Round Table during a feast. He offers a challenge. King Arthur may deal him one blow with an axe, and in exchange, the green half-giant will deal the king one blow in a year and a day. As he hesitates, the Green Knight mocks his bravery, and Sir Gawain accepts the challenge. After striking off the Green Knight’s head, Gawain sets out on a journey to northern Wales to locate the Green Knight and receive his strike in return.
Through the story, Sir Gawain relies on the chivalric behavior he was taught in Camelot’s court. He is challenged not only by the land, but also by his hosts, Lord Bertilak and his wife. They set a lavish trap to ensnare the young, gallant knight. Relying on his honor, he succeeds nearly unscathed, but he wears his prize as a badge of shame rather than pride.