A Closer Look on Sir Gawain
For Literature lovers, Sir Gawain is best known as the nephew of King Arthur. He is the son of King Arthur’s sister Morgaus and King Lot. He is a Knight of the Round Table. His brothers are Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth and Mordred. He is loyal to his king and to his family. He is a magnificent warrior but has a temper. He is also a ladies’ man. There are some works where his strength depends on the sun. Some stories claim that he is really strong during the afternoon when the sun shines at its best and is weak at night because the sun sets.
There are two sides of Sir Gawain when it comes to his duties as a knight and as a family man. He balances both roles well. For example, he is loyal to King Arthur and obeys his commands. However, when Guinevere was slated to be burned at the stake and Sir Gawain was asked by King Arthur to stand post, the Knight nobly said no to the command. His respect for women outweighed his loyalty to his liege. There was also a time when his loyalty to his friend Lancelot was outweighed by his loyalty to his family.
This was when his brothers (except for Mordred) were killed during the battle between Lancelot and King Arthur. But when Mordred overturned the kingdom of Camelot and Sir Gawain was breathing his last, he sought forgiveness from Lancelot and asked him to defeat Mordred in his stead. Sir Gawain is popular in a number of literary works all over Europe. He is often seen as the model of chivalry. Most protagonists are compared and contrasted to him. A lot of French romances portray Gawain in different ways. Sometimes he is the hero.
There are other times, he is the loyal wingman of the hero. He is also popularly known as the knight who searched for the Grail. Here, he is seen at his best light. His intentions are pure. It is reminiscent to him stopping his brothers Agravain and Mordred in plotting the downfall of Lancelot and Guinevere by revealing their love affair. During the Post-Vulgate Cycle, Gawain was portrayed as a murderer. He was no longer the hero but the villain. This generic evil canceled out his records as the noble knight when literature about him is discussed.
Therefore, to the eyes of Literature lovers, Gawain is an honorable champion but has flaws. For the Literature in Britain and Scotland, Gawain is a respectable and admired hero. He is also the main man when it comes to romantic stories and lyrical poems. His reputation is not tarnished because French Literature refuse to show Sir Gawain in a negative light. As a matter of fact, in Middle English Literature, he is the central character in a great work “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. ” In “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, he is an excellent knight but has human traits.
He also has flaws. He may be witty, virtuous and respectful of women but there are times that he is also subdued to jealousy. In the end, his love for women frees his wife Dame Ragnelle from her curse of ugliness. The depiction of Sir Gawain in glowing lights continued toward the Vulgate and the Post-Vulgate Cycle. The problem is that there were other literatures that stained his reputation, particular the negative characteristics that were attributed to him by Thomas Malory’s “The Death of Arthur. ”
Literary scholars compare and contrast the sides of Sir Gawain in every literature he appeared in. Perhaps what makes Sir Gawain genuine is that readers have an idea of his shortcomings but see that he is eager to make up for them (as mentioned in the earlier paragraphs of this essay. ) Therefore, we balance the whole anatomy of Sir Gawain. Just like us, Sir Gawain can be a gentleman and a brute. He can be loyal to his family and friends but turn his back on them the minute his ethics and beliefs are attacked. In the end, it’s all about weighing the pros and the cons of the knight.