Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a medieval virtue poem depicting the struggles of the knight Gawain. Throughout the poem, Gawain's shield, the pentangle, is used as a symbolic representation of his virtues as a knight. The five-sided shield is "an emblem of fidelity," and the poet goes on to say that Gawain embodies knightly virtue in five distinct ways. The first four ways in which Gawain is virtuous are:
First he was found faultless in his five senses,
and then failed never the knight in his five fingers,
and all his trust in the field was in the five wounds
that Christ caught on the cross, as the creed tells.
And wheresoever this man in mêlée was stood,
his first thought was that, over all other things,
all his force in fight he found in the five joys
that holy Heaven’s Queen had of her child.
The final side of the pentangle represents the "fifth five" expressions of Gawain's knightly virtue. This "fifth five" is often considered on its own as "the five virtues of Gawain," but in fact it connects to the preceding four in "an endless knot":
The fifth five that I find the knight used
was Free-handedness and Friendship above all things;
his Continence and Courtesy corrupted were never,
and Piety, that surpasses all points—these pure five
were firmer founded in his form than another.
Gawain, then, according to the poet, embodies the code of chivalry better than any other knight in Arthur's court because he is brave in battle, strong in his faith, generous, friendly, courteous, continent (or chaste), and pious—this being the most important quality in a knight.