Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Pearl-Poet

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Reasons that show Sir Gawain's courage.

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thielgrad04 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When looking at reasons for Sir Gawain's courage, knowing something about history and the Medieval Period, the period in which Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written, will help in identifying examples. One of the main themes and characteristics in Medieval Literature and in Sir Gawain is that of the hero. There are different types of heroes, and they have varying characteristics: a person of either common or  noble birth, who accomplishes extraordinary feats and possesses extraordinary strength (it would make sense that one would also need, or have, an extraordinary amount of courage in...

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w-gutekunst | Student

The unknown author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight covers the topic of courage thoroughly within his poem. As he tells the story of Sir Gawain there is often a contrast between the ideals presented and how they are practically applied. The notion of courage is usually presented by the actions of King Arthur’s knights. In contrast, Sir Gawain as well as the Green Knight, present a practical and more attainable view of courage. The juxtaposition allows the reader to look beyond the sensational qualities propagated in other medieval literature.

According to an ideal view of courage knights should display bravery and service to their king. The knights at King Arthur’s round table should have pounced on the opportunity to put their life on the line for their king, whether in battle or simply in sport. It is not until Arthur himself rises to accept the challenge that Sir Gawain reluctantly steps forward. The ideal of brave and impervious knights fades quickly to a more realistic version that are not nearly so quick to blindly sacrifice themselves. However, it is Sir Gawain that volunteers to represent his king.

Sir Gawain displays the ideal of principle and chivalry in keeping his end of the bargain. As he rides through the woods his courage is tested as he is faced with seemingly endless obstacles and battles, yet he honors his king in continuing the journey. Sir Gawain again shows the courage to restrain himself from the advances of Bercilak de Hautdesert’s wife while staying in his castle awaiting his meeting with the Green Knight.

Ultimately, Sir Gawain displays the ultimate show of courage as he meets the Green Knight to accept the stroke of his axe, only to find that it was all a clever test. Despite his apprehension thought the poem Sir Gawain trudges forward from one courageous act to the next, and returns to his king a hero.