Saturday, December 10, 2016
Gawain and the Green Knight
A year after beheading the magical Green Knight in a Christmas game, Sir Gawain must travel to the distant green chapel, prepared to receive the return blow. A guest of the merry Lord Bertilak, all is not as it seems as Gawain struggles to fulfil his quest (and also protect his virtue from the seductive desires of his host's beautiful wife).Gawain and the Green Knight is a late 14th century poem, written originally in Middle English. The story is a Christian romance, in which a hero from the court of King Arthur undertakes a quest that tests his honour, strength and faith.The poem is violent and comic in turns, from the horror of the Green Knight's appearance in Camelot to the sensual yet farcical attempts of Lady Bertilak to seduce him (a meticulous game of cat-and-mouse, conducted within the four posts of his bed).Gawain's strength is in his devotion to the Virgin Mary, whose image is painted on the inside of his shield. It is she who is most often in his prayers and who saves him at the moment of his greatest temptation. It is his sensitive devotion to her and his humble loyalty to God, King Arthur and the code of chivalry that gives the story its heart.Though flawed, Gawain conducts himself with selfless knightly courage, courtesy and honour. This is his real triumph – to do his very best, not to be perfect. He remains the most lovable of heroes.The original poem survives in a single manuscript known as the 'Cotton Nero A.x.', which also contains three other Christian poems (Pearl, Purity and Patience). One author, known as the 'Pearl Poet' or 'Gawain Poet', is believed to have penned all four, though his (or her) name is unknown.Gawain and the Green Knight is a timeless romance of a young knight's adventure – the classic story of love, honour, devotion and bravery. Frightening, humorous and moving, it remains the most compelling and enduring of tales.