Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Pearl-Poet

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, what lines in the poem show friendship and what lines exhibit generosity?

Expert Answers info

booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2003

write4,119 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, lines that denote friendship are:

Yet he lingered with Arthur past All Saints Eve
who set up a feast to send his knight off
with revelry rich as the Round Table offered.


So much secret sorrow swept through that hall
that one so good as Gawain must go forth doomed
to bear the brunt of a blow and let his own blade

In both of these quotes, it is the friendship that the king feels to have a feast in Gawain's honor, and it is sorrow in the hearts of his friends—his fellow knights—that cause them to fear for Gawain's safety when he leaves them to travel to the Green Chapel to face the Green Knight.

"By Peter," said the porter, "be perfectly sure
that you, Lord, are welcome as long as you like!"
Then swift-paced the porter moved to approach him,
and others came with him to welcome their guest.
They dropped the great drawbridge, then drawing near proudly,
they bowed, their knees bent upon the bare earth
to one whom they welcomed as worthy of honor.

In the example above from Book Two, those who work at Bertilak's castle, as well as the lord himself, offer Gawain friendship and hospitality.

Generosity is seen with the following:

And then a rich robe was thrown around him
of brilliant, gaily embroidered silk
filled out with fur: the finest of pelts, 
and every bit ermine, even the hood. 
Thus he sat, relaxed and in lavish splendor, 
till he felt far better in the fire's warmth.


And Gawain, I give you this belt, / As green as my gown...Keep this token for chivalrous / Men to know your adventure at the green Chapel.

Generosity is seen at the hands of Bertilak, his wife and his servants. They welcome Gawain gladly and care for him as a guest, as a friend of the castle.

Friendship is seen primarily with Gawain and his friends at Arthur's court, though I would suggest, too, that the Green Knight's forgiveness and admiration offer friendship as well.



check Approved by eNotes Editorial
bethanywaters eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write131 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Research Starters

Both friendship and generosity ("free-handedness") appear within the fifth five of the pentangle on Gawain's shield. Thus, these two qualities have vital importance to the main character of the story and, by extension, the whole of the story. There are several examples of where these two characteristics are displayed in the text.

The earliest example of both can be seen through Gawain's uncle, King Arthur. Arthur has thrown a party and "would not eat till all were served, so full of joy and gladness was he." The reader is also told that "each helped himself as he liked best, and to each two were twelve dishes, with great plenty of beer and wine." The fact that this party is so bountiful and that Arthur looks to please those in attendance demonstrates both his friendship and generosity to those in attendance.

Another strong example of these qualities being paired is at the end of Part 4 when the Green Knight is revealed to be the lord who has been hosting Sir Gawain. Upon Gawain's realization of the lord's identity and his own failure to keep his promise, the lord generously offers to host Gawain at his home once again. "But Sir Gawain said nay, he would in no wise do so; so they embraced and kissed, and commended each other to the Prince of Paradise, and parted right there, on the cold ground." Thus, although they start off as enemies at the beginning of the story and become joking rivals under a layer of deception in Parts 2 and 3, they end as friends who dedicate each other to God's protection.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Unlock This Answer Now