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Flashcards in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Deck (32):

When was Sir Gawain and the Green Knight written?

c. 1380


Who is the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?

Unknown; the Pearl poet


Why is the Middle English of Gawain so different than that of Chaucer's?

Though the two poems were composed around the same time, Chaucer was from London, while the Pearl poet was from somewhere near the Welsh marches. The London forms of speaking are what became dominant, which is why Chaucer's English seems somewhat less strange to us now.


What is a French source that Chaucer and the Pearl poet share?

Roman de la Rose


Who established the cultural tradition of chivalry?

Eleanor of Aquitaine (first husband was King of France, second husband was King of England; 12th century)


What are some characteristics of the chivalric tradition?

- elaborate codes of courtly love
- elaborate criteria for knightly prowess and magnanimity
- imaginative spirit


What are two striking linguistic features of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?

Alliterative language and the bob and wheel (short line followed by a quatrain)


What time of year does the Green Knight first appear at Camelot?

Christmastime; particularly New Year's Day


When is the historical King Arthur thought to have lived?

c. 5th century


How long do Christmas revelries last in King Arthur's court?

15 days


What is the period of time between Gawain's first and second encounters with the Green Knight? Where else in our reading does this period of time recur?

A year and a day; in the Knight's Tale and the Wife of Bath's Tale


What is the familial relationship between Arthur and Gawain?

Arthur is Gawain's uncle


What symbol is on Gawain's shield?

A pentangle


What is the significance of the five-pointed star on Gawain's shield?

- Gawain was faultless in his five senses
- His five fingers never failed him
- The points represent the five wounds of Christ (faith)
- His courage comes from the "five joys" the Queen of Heaven has from her Child
- He displays five virtuous traits

Together, the points form an endless knot of these virtues, which are all interconnected.


What are the five traits represented by the pentangle on Gawain's shield?

- generosity
- fellowship
- purity of heart
- courtesy
- pity


What are some of the hardships Gawain faces on his search for the Green Chapel?

In addition to emotional turmoil, he fights dragons, wolves, trolls, and other fierce and fantastic creatures. Even more unpleasant is the harsh winter season, which leaves him cold and hungry on his travels.


What action of Gawain's immediately precedes him finding the hospitable king's castle?

Praying to God and Mary that he may find a safe place to perform his Christmas devotions; crossing himself three times.


What is the name of Gawain's horse?



Describe the appearance of the Lord of the castle.

He is brawny and bearded - he seems to be associated with the color red. He is "fierce as fire".


Discuss Gawain's linguistic appeal to the foreign court.

Among other virtues the members of this court hope to pick up from Gawain, they are eager for the opportunity to "learn the best forms of speech without asking" and "learn the language of lovers."


What is the bargain that Gawain makes with the Lord of the Castle?

That they will exchange whatever each of them acquires for the day - the King will give Gawain whatever game he gets in the forest, and Gawain will give him anything he happens to get while resting in the castle.


What do the King and Gawain exchange on the first day of the bargain?

Gawain gives the King a kiss (but doesn't reveal its source); the King presents Gawain will the spoils of the day's hunt - a number of deer.


What do the King and Gawain exchange on the second day of the bargain?

Gawain gives the King two kisses (still not revealing who he received them from); the King gives Gawain the Boar that was killed that day.


What type of game is hunted on each of the three days?

Day 1: Deer
Day 2: Boar
Day 3: Fox


What gift does Gawain refuse to take from the lady of the house?

A ring


What gift does Gawain eventually take from the lady? Describe it.

A belt. It is of green silk decorated with gold - a clear signal of its relationship to the Green Knight.


What do the King and Gawain exchange on the third and final day of the bargain?

Gawain gives the King three kisses but does not hand over the belt; the King gives Gawain the pelt of the fox that was killed that day.


What are the parallels between the bargain between the King and Gawain and Gawain's second encounter with the Green Knight?

There are three days of exchanges, and three strokes the Green Knight aims at Gawain. In exchange for the first two days, where Gawain was honest, the Green Knight wields harmless strokes. For the third day, when Gawain concealed the belt he received, the Green Knight draws a drop of blood.


What happens to the green girdle after Gawain and the Green Knight's encounter?

Gawain offers to return it, but the Green Knight refuses. Gawain vows to wear it as a reminder of his weakness.


What is the Green Knight's name?

Bertilak of Hautdesert


Who is the old woman from the castle?

Morgan Le Faye


What is Gawain's relationship to Morgan Le Faye?

She is his aunt (because she is Arthur's half-sister)