Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Questions and Answers
by Pearl-Poet

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What are some of the complex ways in which Sir Gawain and the Green Knight represents the intersection between sexual desire and social class through different social and/or sexual triangles of people?

One of the most straightforward examples of the complex intersections between sexual desire and social class happens at Lord Bertilak's castle. The love triangle between Gawain, Lady Bertilak, and Lord Bertilak is one dominated by differences in social rank and concerns for chivalric conduct on the part of Gawain. However, he does have a sexual desire for Lady Bertilak that goes against the code of chivalry.

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The potential erotic situation between Gawain and Lady Bertilak is complicated by social rank. Gawain cannot sleep with Lady Bertilak as that would be adultery, both a sin and a slight against his host Lord Bertilak in making the man a cuckold. However, Lady Bertilak's social status is higher than Gawain's (she is a noblewoman and he is only a knight) and as his host's wife, he has a duty to please her or at the very least, not offend her, so Gawain must handle her attempts to seduce him with care. To reject her entirely would go against chivalric code, but to succumb would do the...

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