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Gawain, King Arthur, and the Code of ChivalryHow do the protagonists of  "Sir...

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larryj352 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 25, 2007 at 1:20 PM via web

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Gawain, King Arthur, and the Code of Chivalry

How do the protagonists of  "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and "Le Morte d Arthur" follow the code of chivalry?

How do elements of the code, such as loyalty and honestyapply to each character?  Explain why Gawain an d Arthur share these qualities.

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

Posted January 25, 2007 at 3:09 PM (Answer #2)

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According to this page: Displeased with the violence and bloodshed of war, the Church encouraged chivalric customs. Although there was no actual written “code” of chivalry, there was an understanding between knights of a certain courtesy toward one another. Knights strove for justice, courage, loyalty, and prowess.

Gawain shows courage when he battles the Green Knight, and Arthur shows many acts of courage in Le Morte d Arthur. They also both show prowess, especially when Gawain has to chop off the Green Knight's head.

Hope that helps!

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 17, 2007 at 9:16 AM (Answer #3)

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The basic code is as follows:

The Ten Commandments of the Code of ChivalryFrom Chivalry by Leon Gautier

  1. Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches, and shalt observe all its directions.
  2. Thou shalt defend the Church.
  3. Thou shalt repect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
  4. Thou shalt love the country in the which thou wast born.
  5. Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
  6. Thou shalt make war against the Infidel without cessation, and without mercy.
  7. Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
  8. Thou shalt never lie, and shall remain faithful to thy pledged word.
  9. Thou shalt be generous, and give largess to everyone.
  10. Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.

Follow the link below for more rules of chivalry and courtly love.

For Gawain, he is brave and sacrifices himself (instead of Arthur, his King) in a quest which ultimately will end in his head being severed from his body.  This is problematic, for unlike the Green Knight, he will not walk off afterward with his head under his arm.  He honors the lady.  He does lie during the quest.  However, he confesses his fault and asks for forgiveness.  This earns him respect from the Green Knight.

Arthur is also courageous and brave.  He is religious and righteous.  He stands up for what is right, and he keeps his promise to the Lady of the Lake.

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