Sir Gawain and the Green
Sir Gawain: the story’s
protagonist. Arthur’s nephew and one of his loyal knights. He has a reputation as a great knight and a courtly lover.
He prides himself on observing the 5 points of chivalry in all aspects of life. His flaw is that he values his own life and
will lie to protect it.
Green Knight: a mysterious
visitor to Camelot. He is large in stature and has a green complexion. He poses a game to the court that is quite deadly.
He wants to have someone take his large axe and chop off his head if one year and a day later the person will come find him
so he can repay the favor. He shows himself to be supernatural when he picks up his own head. Eventually shown to be Bertilak,
Gawain’s host by the end.
Bertilak: the sturdy
lord of the castle where Gawain spends Christmas. We learn his name at the end. His beard resembles a beaver and his face
a fire. He plays a game with Gawain where they exchange their winnings this eventually leads to Gawain’s foil. At the
end of the poem we learn that he is also the green knight who is working for Morgan le Faye.
she attempts to seduce Gawain on a daily basis during his stay at the castle. She is an amazingly clever debater and a beautiful
young woman. She is another pawn in Morgan le Faye’s plot.
Morgan le Faye: half
sister of King Arthur. A powerful sorceress trained by Merlin and Merlin’s mistress. She is the old lady in the castle
Gawain stays at. All is controlled by her to cause trouble for Arthur and to scare the queen, which we find out at the end.
King Arthur: the king
of Camelot. In this story he is young and his court is in their golden age. He refuses to eat until being entertained by a
fantastic tale, at which point the green knight enters. At story’s end he joins his nephew in wearing the green girdle
to show his own fallibility.
Queen Guinevere: she
is Arthur’s wife. She is young and beautiful and sits at the table of honor with Gawain. She is not like the later Guinevere
The 3 days Gawain is at the castle:
The lord hunts
a herd of does, while Gawain sleeps late in his bedchambers
He receives 1
kiss from the lord’s wife
The lord asks
where he could have received such a prize and Gawain says that wasn’t part of the deal
The lord hunts
a wild boar
The lord hunts
The lady asks
for a token but he refuses
She gives him
a green girdle which she says has the power to keep him from death
He does not give
it up to the lord or speak of the magical girdle
The nature of
The letter of
The changing of
Symbols such as
The green Girdle
A symbol of truth
that forms the endless knot
Each line passes
over one line and under one line and joins the other two lines at its ends
virtue Gawain aspires to:
To be faultless
in 5 senses
Never to fail
his 5 fingers
Faithful to the
5 wounds of Christ
the 5 joys of the Virgin Mary in Jesus (annunciation, nativity, resurrection, ascension, and assumption)
To possess brotherly
love, courtesy, piety, and chastity
Side of the shield
facing Gawain contains an image of the Virgin Mary so he never loses heart