Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

An Extrapolation of Stanza 74 in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

In Stanza 74 of the epic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the lady of the castle offers a magical green girdle to Sir Gawain and explains that the wearer of this corset "cannot be killed by any cunning on earth." Sir Gawain, amidst an ethical dilemma, accepts the gift and chooses to conceal it and its powers from Lord Bertilak. Thus, with this passage, two of the main themes of the tale emerge--the inner and outer conflicts between Sir Gawain's ethics and desire to live and the test of his religious faith.

When Gawain is offered the girdle, his knightly ethics are questioned, for the honorable thing would be to reject the offer or bring it to the lord of the castle, but Gawain places the preservation of his life ahead of his chivalry. Gawain has withstood the lady's constant barrage of sexual advances and has kept his promise to the lord of the castle, but when the opportunity arises to save his own life, he absconds it without a second thought. The point is shown by the way the word "Outright" is placed on a line of its own which emphasizes Gawain's hasty decision. He is then ecstatic about the thought that he will survive his encounter with the Green Knight the following day, demonstrated...

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