Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Impossible Pentangle: Chivalry, Christianity, and Ethical Dualism in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

An exemplary knight of King Arthur's renowned court, Sir Gawain is guided by a complex set of ethos, a collection of principles symbolized by the mystical pentangle. A five-pointed star consisting of five interlocking lines, the figure represents a variety of guiding tenets, comprising both religious and knightly ideals. It also emblemizes the interdependent nature of those virtues; if one point or line is lost, then the whole is torn asunder- the values it represents, shredded. Working in a unified manner, all parts should hold fast; however, through the course of Gawain's epos with the Green Knight, knightly manners work against Christian principles, breaking the knot and resulting in moral dissolution. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight criticizes the fact that chivalric courtesy often displaces true Christian ethics, while at the same time expressing understanding and acceptance for the fact that humanity can only strive towards such prelapsarian perfection.

Throughout the poem, Gawain is led astray by knightly manners unassociated with Christian values, putting both his life and his morality in danger. In the first scene, the praising descriptions of King Arthur's court are based largely on the sumptuousness of...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 725 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4182 literature essays, 1403 sample college application essays, 171 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in