t’s Chivalric AttributesSir Gawain and the Green Knight: Test of One Knigh Essayt’s Chivalric AttributesLoyalty, courage, honor, purity, and courtesy are all attributes of aknight that displays chivalry.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is truly a storyof the test of these attributes. In order to have a true test of theseattributes, there must first be a knight worthy of being tested, meaning thatthe knight must possess chivalric attributes to begin with. Sir Gawain is selfadmittedly not the best knight around. He says “I am the weakest, well I know,and of wit feeblest; / and the loss of my life will be least of any” (SirGawain, l. 354-355).Order now
To continue on testing a knight that does not seem worthycertainly will not result in much of a story, or in establishing a theme. Through the use of symbols, the author of Sir Gawain is able to show that Gawainpossesses the necessary attributes to make him worthy of being tested. He alsouses symbols throughout the tests of each individual attribute, and in revealingwhere Gawain’s fault lies. The effective use of these symbols enables theauthor to integrate the test of each individual attribute into a central theme,or rather one overall test, the test of chivalry.
To establish the knight as worthy, the author first shows Gawain’sloyalty to his king. The Green Knight challenges anyone in the hall to thebeheading game and no one takes him up on it. Arthur, angered by the GreenKnight’s taunting, is about to accept the challenge himself when Gawain steps insaying “would you grant me this grace” (Sir Gawain, l. 343), and takes the axfrom Arthur. This is a very convenient way for the author to introduce Gawainand also to show Gawain’s loyalty to Arthur, but it seems almost too convenient.
There is an entire hall full of knights, why does Gawain alone step up? Why isit that a superior knight such as Lancelot does not step up? The Green Knightis big and of course he is green, which might explain some of the delay inacceptance of the challenge, but these knights are warriors. The color green isnot a frightening enough color, even combined with the Green Knight’s size, toscare a true warrior. The possible reason for the hesitation by the knightscould lie in the description of the Green Knight’s eyes. The author points themout in line 304, “and roisterously his red eyes he rolls all about” (SirGawain). The critic Robert B.
White Jr. says that “one need not look far todiscover the general symbolic significance of red when it appears in earlyliterature; it is generally associated with blood, cruelty, and violence”(224). The Green Knight’s eyes display just how sinister he is and provide thereason that the other knights are hesitant to accept the challenge. Gawain’swillingness to accept definitely sets him apart from the other knights. Theauthor uses this symbol to reveal that Gawain is not only loyal, but alsocourageous, and worthy to have his attributes put to the test. The author goes on to reveal yet another very important attribute of theloyal knight, his moral goodness.
This is done in the description of the shieldthat Gawain arms himself with to undertake his journey to the Green Chapel. Theshield is adorned “with a pentangle portrayed in purest gold” (Sir Gawain, l. 620). This pentangle symbolizes Gawain’s “faith in the five wounds of Christand the five joys of the Virgin Mary, and his possession of the five knightlyvirtues. . .
” (Howard 47). This display of Gawain’s moral perfection, or purity,reinforces his worthiness to undergo the test of his chivalric attributes. Honor is another very important attribute that a knight must possess. Gawain has given his word while accepting the beheading challenge that he willmeet the Green Knight at the Green Chapel in one year’s time. This journey isnot an easy task by any means. The author tells us “many a cliff must he climbin country wild; / far off from all his friends, forlorn must he ride” (SirGawain, l.
713-714). This journey is also taking place in winter and “nearslain by the sleet Gawain sleeps in his irons / more nights than enough, amongthe naked rocks” (Sir Gawain, l. 729-730).The author’s vivid description ofwhat Gawain must go through to .