Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Significance of the Green Girdle

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the epitome of the Romantic genre in the Middle Ages, one that features both chivalry and courtly love and emphasizes that a knight’s most important duty is to serve God. While most chivalric tales focus on the physical strength and the impressive battles fought by fearless knights, this tale focuses on the strength of a knight’s faith. Sir Gawain’s faith is tested by the beautiful Lady Bertilak, who offers him her green girdle. The silk belt is the perfect utility to tie the two elements of chivalry and courtly love together. Throughout the poem, the Pearl poet shifts the nature of the girdle and how it is perceived by Gawain. The girdle seems like an insignificant, inanimate piece of cloth. However, because Gawain invests all of his faith in it, the girdle’s function, value, and overall connotation become progressively more significant.

The presentation of the girdle by Lady Bertilak first tests Gawain’s faith. The Lady first offers Gawain a “rich ring, wrought all of gold…worth a king’s wealth, you may well believe” (ll.1817-20), which makes her second gift – the girdle – seem all the more mundane. When Gawain refuses the gift, the Lady questions his choice: “‘Because it seems in your sight...

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