Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Allegory in "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight"

'The whole things is allegorical from start to end, yet he never takes you by the neck and says "Get down to it, that's an allegory, you've got to interpret it", the way most allegorists do.' (Basil Bunting on Poetry, p.15.)

'The poem however does not take any line or lead readers to any simple value judgments. Rather ... it draws readers into active response to the story and prompts them to attempts to weigh up issues for themselves.' J. J. Anderson, Introduction to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Everyman 1996), p. xxi

The contradicting views on allegory and its starkness in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight immediately present the problem of the copious different meanings, suggestions and nuances of word 'allegorical'. In its simplest form, an allegory is a narrative constructed of representations of concepts, where events and people become metaphorical. 'Multi-layering' combines with the fine line between 'allegorical', 'tropological' and 'anagogical' to mean that in using the word 'allegorical' one must be careful not to reduce and over-simplify a complex and rich work such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The Gawain-poet does, as Bunting...

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