How well are elements of romance incorporated into 'Sir Gawain And The Green Knight?'

Essay by spleenUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, May 2004

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The medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a romance, and as such, elements of romance have been very effectively woven into the plot, indeed the plot itself is a typically romantic one. Medieval romances are often set in the legendary court of King Arthur, and feature an idealistic and somewhat unrealistic hero, who is drawn from the highest ranks of society, often a knight. In this case, the hero is Sir Gawain, a model of all the knightly chivalric ideals. The hero goes on an adventure, in which there are a series of tests, or trials that the hero must overcome; this is the driving force of the romantic story, rather than the inner workings of the hero. There is often the element of disguise and mystery surrounding one or more characters, with revelation at a later point in the story. As per the setting, magic and the supernatural often play a large part in medieval romance, the character of the Green Knight is supernatural, surviving decapitation at the hands of Sir Gawain.

And at the end of the story, all receive poetic justice, hero and villain alike. However, this poem is not as simple a romance as it seems. The poem subtly questions the chivalric ideals and code of courtesy of King Arthur?s court, and is a is a subtle satire of the romantic tradition.

The setting of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as the title suggests, is set in the court of King Arthur, and so the majority of the action focuses on knights, noblemen and ladies. The hero is Sir Gawain, whom the poet has effectively described as a romantic, idealised figure who is the model Christian knight, the perfect gentleman; he is brave and chivalrous, but also humble and...