Part One, Verses 1-10, Lines 1-231 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
King Arthur: the legendary king at Camelot, who is presiding over Christmas festivities

Queen Guinevere: the wife of King Arthur, famed for her beauty

Sir Gawain: the nephew of King Arthur and hero of the story

The Green Knight: the mysterious stranger; a huge man whose clothes and complexion are green; he
arrives in Camelot at the Christmas festivities to deliver the strange challenge which begins the story

Bishop Baldwin: religious figure, who in the beginning of the poem, sits next to King Arthur

The Duke of Clarence: attends the feast in the beginning of the poem

Sir Ywain, Sir Eric, Sir Dodinal le Sauvage, Sir Bors, Sir Bedivere, Sir Lionel, Sir Lucan the Good and Sir Mador de la Porte: knights of the Round Table

Sir Agravain á la dure main: a knight; Gawain’s brother

Sir Lancelot: a knight; has an affair with Queen Guinevere

The poet leads into his story by telling of the foundation of Britain and the line of King Arthur. The story begins as Arthur and his court are celebrating the Christmas holidays. There are contests and games. People attend Mass and exchange gifts. A feast is being prepared and Queen Guinevere sits in a place of honor on a dais under a costly canopy with silk curtains and imported tapestries. On her left is seated Sir Gawain, and next to him is his brother Sir Agravain. The seat on her right waits for Arthur. The restless young king has vowed not to feast until either he has heard a tale of some wonder or else a challenge has been issued to one of the knights of the Round Table.

Suddenly a stranger, the Green Knight, appears in the doorway. He is at least a head taller than any of Arthur’s knights. He is also very well-proportioned, but his complexion and his clothing are green, with a few touches of gold. Even his hair and beard are green. His horse, similarly splendid, is entirely green as well.

The knights think what a formidable adversary the Green Knight must be, yet he wears no armor. He holds a strand of holly in one hand and an enormous battle-ax in the other. The Green Knight calls for the whomever is presiding over the feast.

According to tradition, the crown of Arthur went all the way back to King Priam of Troy. The third stanza alludes to several stories connected with this origin. The Greeks had burned the city, but Aeneas, son of Priam, escaped, and his descendants had founded many kingdoms including Rome and Tuscany....

(The entire section is 1055 words.)