Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

An Examination of the Power of Alliteration in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Translations College

In explanation of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse, J.R.R. Tolkien said “They depend on a balance and a weight and emotional content. They are more like masonry than music” (59). The original manuscript of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is written in alliterative verse and follows the use of strict and near-constant alliteration throughout the entirety of the poem. Upon examination of the Middle English text, it is definite that the poet places as much importance on the alliterative structure of the poem as he does the development of characters or plot. When examining the form of alliterative verse in various translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, however, it becomes apparent that the more modern the translation is, the more lenient the translator acts when adhering to the strict use of alliteration established in the original Middle English text. Why did the unknown author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight focus so profoundly on the use of alliteration? Why are modern translations deteriorating the necessity of alliteration within the poem if it is vital for the sake of the work as a whole?

The drastic difference in the medieval and modern audiences likely facilitates the decline of the alliterative stronghold within...

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