In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by Marie Borroff, why is the Green Knight a romance figure?

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gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Romance is a term which has varied meanings and contexts. These days we associate the word most with the idea of a love story. As a historical literary term, however, it refers more broadly to a certain type of tale full of adventure and dramatic events, great battles, mighty kings and beautiful queens, heroes and villains, and, very often, a pronounced supernatural or fantastical element, like magicians and fairies, ghosts and demons and so on. All these elements are of course present in the Arthurian tales, hugely popular in the Middle Ages and still well-known today. The Green Knight is a romance figure in the sense that he throws down a challenge to the valiant knight, Gawain, thus setting up a dramatic encounter. He is also a supernatural figure, of the kind found so frequently in these old romance tales; he regenerates himself after his head is cut off, and he is generally believed to be a variant on the mythical figure of the Green Man, an ancient spirit of vegetation.

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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