Explain how Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an example of medieval romance. Describe at least two different ways that this work fits.

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Medieval Romances typically exhibit the following characteristics:

-Arthurian tales which deal with the quests and challenges of Arthur and his knights.

-Tells a story of a single knight and a single quest.

-The story exists within the constraints similar to a fairy-tale.

-The story contains elements of courtly love- Courtly love is the relationship between a knight and his lord's lady. The knight is required to love and respect the lady within the same way which he loves and respects his lord. The love the knight holds for the lady is fueled by his desire to please her and, therefore, to be worthy of her love and/or to win her favor.

-Typically, the knight must face the challenge of maintaining a balance between chivalry and love.

Based upon these characteristics, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight contains many of the elements to be considered a Medieval Romance.

First, the story deals with one knight, Sir Gawain, and a single quest. Gawain promises to meet the Green Knight one year from their initial meeting to receive a blow from the Green Knight in exchange for the one Gawain gave to him.

Second, the story contains elements which includes fairy-tale like aspects. The Green Knight is mystical. The fact that he was able to lose his head and stay alive alludes to a supernatural element seen in typical fairy-tales.

Third, the story contains elements of courtly love. Gawain must show both Lady Bertalik and Guinevere courtly love. As charged by his position as a knight to Arthur, Gawain must show Guinevere love and respect. In the same way, given Gawain is sheltered at Bertalik's, he must show Lady Bertalik the same kind of respect and love.

Lastly, Gawain greatest challenge is finding a balance between chilvarly and romantic love for Lady Bertalik.


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