At a Glance

  • Sir Gawain, a knight in King Arthur's court, who accepts the Green Knight's challenge.
  • The Green Knight, who later reveals himself to be Lord Bertilak under the influence of Morgan Le Fay.
  • King Arthur, Gawain's cousin, whose New Year's celebration the Green Knight interrupts.
  • Queen Guinevere, King Arthur's wife.
  • Lord Bertilak, lord of Hautdesert castle, later revealed to be the Green Knight himself.
  • Lady Bertilak, Lord Bertilak's wife, who attempts to seduce Sir Gawain.
  • Morgan Le Fay, who disguises herself as the Old Crone in Lord Bertilak's castle. 

List of Characters

Master List of Characters
King Arthur—The legendary king of Britain, at whose court the story begins. Husband of Guinivere and uncle of Gawain, he presides over the famed Knights of the Round Table at Camelot, which are the subject of numerous romances from the start of the Middle Ages through the present. Some scholars believe he was originally a tribal chieftain in Britain, while others trace him to a solar deity.

Queen Guinevere—The wife of Arthur. According to legend, she had an affair with Sir Lancelot which brought about the fall of the Round Table. Her adversary is the enchantress Morgan le Fay, who, we learn at the end of the poem, conjured the Green Knight in order to terrify Guinevere.

Sir Gawain—The nephew of Arthur and a knight. He accepts the challenge of the Green Knight, whom he must behead, then seek out next year (see separate section).

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 Green Knight—The mysterious man in Green whom Gawain, in...

(The entire section is 497 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Sir Gawain

Sir Gawain, the bravest, most virtuous of the Knights of the Round Table. He accepts the Green Knight’s challenge to uphold the honor of Arthur’s court and sets out in autumn on the quest that is essentially a test of his virtue. Temptation awaits him at the castle of Bercilak de Hautdesert, where he must resist the amorous attentions of his hostess without violating the courtesy he owes her as her guest and, at the same time, keep his bargain with his host to exchange whatever he receives at home for the game Bercilak kills while he hunts. Gawain is faithful for two days, but on the third he succumbs to his fear for his life and accepts from the lady a green girdle that protects its wearer from injury. This very human lapse brings him a mild wound from the Green Knight, and he returns to Arthur’s court a chastened, shamefaced hero.

King Arthur

King Arthur, the merry young ruler of Britain who is prepared to fight for his own cause if none of his knights will challenge the Green Knight.


Guenevere (GWEHN-eh-veer), his beautiful young queen, the object of Morgan le Fay’s hatred.

Sir Bercilak de Hautdesert

Sir Bercilak de Hautdesert, the good-humored knight who is Gawain’s host. An avid sportsman and lover of good entertainment, he proposes to Gawain an exchange of the gains of each day as amusement for both of them; the bargain is in reality a part of his test of the knight’s virtue, for it is he who is disguised as the Green Knight by the arts of Morgan le Fay.

The Lady

The Lady, his charming wife and accomplice in the temptation of Gawain.

Morgan le Fay

Morgan le Fay, Arthur’s half sister, who had learned her skills in magic from Merlin. She is said to have plotted the appearance of the Green Knight at Arthur’s court to frighten her enemy Guenevere.