Chilvalry in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Essay by ashenblueUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, February 2005

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In the second half of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain is forced to prove his ideals through series of tests given to him by Morgan le Fay, even though he is unaware that he is being tested. He passes the first two tests, but seems fails the third, proving that even the most noble of knights has his faults. Gawain is forced to face a serious conflict within himself between his desire for self-preservation, his courtly obligations, and his responsibilities as a knight.

Throughout the story, the author describes Gawain as being the bravest of Arthur's great knights. He is the first person to volunteer to accept the Green Knight's challenge, conveying to the reader that he is certainly the most courageous knight of the round table. He is always described as being "noble" and "good." Gawain is portrayed as the pinnacle of knighthood, chivalrous, noble, honorable, loyal, and humble.

He possesses all of the qualities that a knight should. Since Gawain is always so noble and good, it comes as quite a shock when he begins to behave in ways that don't follow the code of chivalry that he lives by.

Gawain first begins to behave in an errant way during the second day he is at the castle. The lord has gone out hunting, suspiciously leaving Gawain alone with his wife. His wife, of course, is a pawn of Morgan le Fay, trying to trick Gawain into betraying his ideals. Gawain doesn't know this though, and this presents a great conflict to him. He has to be courteous and kind to her, and deny her advances at the same time. He must choose between courtly love, and his chivalrous beliefs. Courtly love dictates that he should accept an affair with the lady, while his oath...