Who is the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?

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The identity of the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is lost to history. Some historians and literary critics specializing in medieval literature have made a strong case for the claim that the author is John Massey, a man from Cheshire who lived around the time of Geoffrey Chaucer, the latter part of the fourteenth century. Support for the idea that Massey is the author includes the fact that he lived in the dialect region reflected in the language of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and that he was known to be a poet of the caliber that could create the work.

Not all critics agree that Massey is the creator, and other names have been suggested, including John Donne, John Prat, John Stanley, and a man known as Huchoun (Little Hugh).

In academic circles, the writer is referred to as "The Gawain Poet" or "The Pearl Poet." The second name comes from the poem's similarities to Pearl, a fourteenth-century poem written in a similar style and with a similar theme.

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In truth, no one knows who wrote Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Written many, many years ago, it is amazing that a copy of the poem still exists:

Only a single copy of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has been preserved from the Middle Ages. The manuscript also contains three other poems, Pearl, Patience, and Purity.

Pearl is about the death of the author's daughter, but the other two pieces are Biblical in nature. This unknown author is often called "the Gawain poet." However, he is also known also as the "Pearl Poet" because of the authorship of "Pearl, an alliterative poem..."

Scholars believe that the writer was educated. "Gawain" was written in Middle English, a form of English popularized (as opposed to Old English) by Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote The Canterbury Tales, roughly during the same time. The "Gawain" poem appears to have been penned at the end of the 14th Century when the medieval period was already declining.

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