Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Significance of Shield & Pentangle in "Sir Gawain & the Green Knight"

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” can be followed for entertainment value, but one passage in particular calls for deeper analysis. Before Sir Gawain begins to undertake his quest for the Green Chapel and dons his armor, the plot has been moving at a steady pace. At this point, the poet diverges from the plot to spend around fifty lines describing Gawain’s shield. By invoking a meaningful symbol, the pentangle, this description holds important information about Gawain that could not be conveyed within the plot alone.

The most essential part of this section is simply a description of the shield’s appearance. As the poem reads, “Then they schewed hym the schelde, that was of schyr goules / Wyth the pentangel depaynt of pure golde hews” (lines 619-620). Gawain arms himself with a shield of fair red color that has a pentangle painted upon it in golden hues. It is the pentangle on which the poet focuses much attention in this passage. For every knight, the shield played two roles. First, in a sheer physical sense it offered protection in battle. It was also used as a means of identification among other knights (Green 126). Each knight had a different design or symbol placed upon his shield, making it possible to identify people in...

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