What are the temptations of Sir Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?

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The temptations Gawain faces are more multifaceted than they may seem at first, particularly given the modern light through which we view the story. It is not clear what game Bertilak's wife is playing with Gawain when he stays with the couple at their castle, nor how much her husband knows about it. It could be argued, given what we later discover about Bertilak's true identity, that he and his wife are working together to "tempt" Gawain and see how far he can be swayed.

But what are they tempting him to do? The promise Gawain has made is that anything he is given, he will give back to Bertilak. So, Bertilak's wife is tempting Gawain in a basic erotic sense by kissing him, but the more important element of the temptation is that she (and possibly Bertilak) is tempting him to break his honor and lie in order to save himself from embarrassment or disrepute. She is tempting him, we might argue, not to give the kisses to Bertilak. But Gawain kisses Bertilak for the first two days, in clear...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 988 words.)

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