Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Chivalry and Courtesy in 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'

Although it could be contended that chivalry and courtesy are essentially aspects of the same code of restraint and responsibility, the romance of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight presents a distinction between the domestic test of the Gawain's chastity and the fantastic challenge of his bravery and mental resolve. Gawain's virtues, symbolised in "the endeles knot" of the pentangle of his shield, are profoundly and religiously interconnected, meaning that his very knighthood, in its attempt to achieve personal spiritual salvation through earthly and social struggle, can be threatened by one of his virtues being strained. Contrastingly, the shorter, simpler and earlier romance of Sir Orfeo far less psychological or symbolic depth and a thoroughly inexplicit narrative causation; the action being driven very little by the decisions of the characters and more by the capricious and inexplicable intervention of the fairies. Although Gawain is an exemplar of knightly virtues, he also has human faults and an arguably inadequate religious sensibility, whereas Sir Orfeo seems to be the victim of wider, uncontrollable circumstances and to rejoice in an unequivocally complimentary presentation.

Throughout literature,...

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