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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight excerpts from Fit II (Boroff translation):

Vocabulary alliterative revival, alliterative verse, archetype, bob-and-wheel, fit, folkloric motifs, leitmotif, medieval romance, temptation motif.

Character Identifications: Sir Gawain, Arthur, Gwenevere, The Green Knight (Sir Bercilak), Gringolet, The Host (Sir Bercilak in disguise), The Host's Wife, Morgan LeFey.

Reading Questions:

  • After Gawain's game, the poet describes the passing of winter games. He then describes the coming of spring and Lent and Easter in a single stanza, and then he describes the ripening of crops and the coming of summer in one stanza. The poet then describes All-Hallow's Eve (Halloween), All Saint's Day, and the season of fall in a few lines. What is the poet suggesting by rapidly moving through time in this manner when it comes to Gawain's situation?
  • [Lecture question] How does the editorial punctuation in line 545 lead to two dramatically different interpretations of that line? What happens if we add the comma after "lord" rather than "life"? Do you think the editor made the right call on punctuation? Why or why not?
  • Who are some of the knights who come to see Sir Gawain off on his journey?
  • How does the court react to Sir Gawain's decision to leave?
  • What is Gawain's response to those who say it is a shame for him "to bear such a bitter blow"?
  • What religious undertaking does Gawain participate in before mounting his horse and riding away?
  • What is the name of Gawain's horse that he rides?
  • What color is Sir Gawain's armor when he sets out from Camelot? How does this color contrast or compare with the Green Knight's coloration? What emblem or design appears on the front of Gawain's shield? Whose picture appears on the inside of Gawain's shield?
  • Why is the number five important or significant, according to the narrator?

Sample Identification Passages:

A. "Now, liege lord of my life, my leave I take;
The terms of this task too well you know--
To count the cost over concerns me nothing.
But I am bound forth betimes to bear a stroke
From the grim man in green, as God may direct."

B. He said, "Why should I tarry?"
And smiled with tranquil eye;
"In destinies sad or merry,
True men can but try."

C. Then they showed forth the shield, that shone all red,
With the pentangle portrayed in purest gold.
About his broad neck by the baldric he casts it,
That was meet for the man, and matched him well.
And why the pentangle is proper to that peerless prince
I intend now to tell, though detain me it must.
It is a sign by Solomon sagely devised
To be a token of truth, by its title old,
For it is a figure formed of five points,
And each line is linked and locked with the next
For ever and ever, and hence it is called
In all England, as I hear, the endless knot.

D. And therefore, as I find, he fittingly had
On the inner part of his shield her image portrayed,
That when his look on it lighted, he never lost heart.



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