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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight discussion questions
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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS ON PART I OF SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT (c. 1350)
- For what purpose would the Gawain poet place King Arthur in line with the founders of the ancient civilizations?
- Why is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight said to be written in alliterative verse?
- While describing the knights and ladies of Arthur’s court, the Gawain poet alludes to some of the values of his audience? What adjectives, used to describe these scenes of “revelry”, correspond to these values?
- How does the poet describe King Arthur? Does he remind you of anyone you know or have known?
- What does Arthur challenge the Green Knight to do? Why, do you think?
- What is the Knight’s reaction to this challenge?
- How does Sir Gawain rationalize his request of Arthur that he be the one to accept the Knight’s challenge? What qualities does he thus show?
- What bargain does the Green Knight strike with Gawain?
- Describe the reaction of the gathered crowd to the spectacle that enfolds before Arthur.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS ON PART II OF SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT (c. 1350)
- Why did the lords and ladies have “sorrow” for Gawain? Why did they “make mirth” for his sake? (l. 540)
- Why do you think the Gawain poet aggrandizes Gawain by describing his equipment and clothing in such extravagant and hyperbolic detail? (566-589)
- What might the significance of the birds that are embroidered on Gawain’s suit be? (610)
- What are Gawain’s “five virtues”? (651)
- Summarize the attitude of Gawain’s kinsmen to the King who allowed his knight to dual with a Green Knight “for empty pride”, “caught in a cavil [conspiracy] in a Christmas game”? (674-683)
- What do you think is the dramatic significance of the fact that the townspeople are unable to give Gawain directions to the Green Chapel of the Green Knight? (707)
- Who is the “Sire” to which the poet refers in l. 751?
- Gawain is praised more extravagantly by those who await his appearance for dinner than by any who knew him at the Round Table, earlier in the epic. Why, do you think, he seems to have grown in the poet’s—and reader’s—eyes? (916-927)
- For what reason do Gawain and his host sit together, “soberly”? (940)
- Speculate on the symbolic significance of the two ladies—oneold and weathered, the other “fresh as the first snow”? (956)
- The final passage of Part II is reminiscent of what earlier passage in the epic?
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS ON SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT--Parts III and IV
- Why, do you think, the Green Knight feigns sleep when the “lady” appears at his bedside? (line 1187)?
- What is the “truce” that the lady proposes to Gawain? (1210- 1240)
- Restate the meaning of the sentence that begins, “But there are ladies, believe me …”. (1251)
- What are Gawain’s three reasons for not accepting the lady’s advances? (1266, 1276, 1283)
- Sir Gawain combines three “games” that were part of every epic poet’s repertoire in the 14th century—“Blow for blow”; “Temptress”; and “You get part of my winnings”. What do you think is the thematic significance of each to the story? (1384)
About this Document
These questions cover Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. These questions cover all 4 parts of the reading.