Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Pearl-Poet

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight book cover
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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. 

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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 response to a challenge, beheads and must later seek at the Green Chapel .

Gringolet—The horse of Gawain.

Peter—Porter who welcomes Gawain to Hautdesert Castle.

Lord Bertilak—Lord of the castle of Hautdesert, where Gawain stays on his way to find the Green Knight. At the end of the story, he is revealed to be the Green Knight himself.

Lady Bertilak—Wife of Lord Bertilak, who tries to seduce Gawain three times while her husband is away. When Gawain refuses her advances, she gives him a sash, which she says has the magical property of preserving him from harm from weapons. When Gawain first sees Lady Bertilak, she is accompanied by and old crone, Morgan le Fay, and some scholars maintain they are different incarnations of a single person.

Old Crone / Morgan le Fay—The woman first who accompanies Lady Bertilak when Gawain first arrives at castle Hauptdesert. She appears ugly as her younger companion is beautiful. The Green Knight later tells Gawain that he had been conjured by Morgan le Fay to frighten her adversary queen Guinevere. Morgan is closely associated with Lady Bertilak, and some scholars think they are the same. In Arthurian romances in general, Morgan is a powerful and ambivalent sorceress, who often lays temptations for the knights of King Arthur. Scholars believe she was orginally a goddess of the sea.

Gawain’s Guide—A servant who accompanies Gawain from castle Hauptdesert to the Green Knight. He tells Gawain how ruthless the Green Knight is, then he turns back in fear.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Sir Gawain

Sir...

(The entire section is 828 words.)