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Loosening Knots In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

10 Pages 2509 Words

In Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, the poet represents the protagonist Gawain with two different types of knots. Initially, Gawain is portrayed as the noble knight of King Arthur’s court who is the quintessence of chivalry; he is loyal, courteous and above all honest. The poet portrays his chivalric character with the pentangle on the shield because he is void of faults and “tulk of tale most trwe/ And gentylest knygt of lote.” (ll. 638-639). These traits are put to the test, and he proves himself honorable except for the last test in which he accepts a girdle from Lady Bercilak for the sake of saving his life. The poet uses the girdle to show how Gawain’s character and motivations change. The evolution of symbolic identification reveals that the love of life causes human beings to lose virtuousness but can be redeemed with spiritual and humanistic moral correction.
In stanza 27 the poet introduces the symbol of the pentangle and draws a parallel between trawþ and endlessness. The image of the pentangle dates back to King Solomon and was used by the Hebrews as an attribute of Truth and the five books of the Pentateuch. Already, one can see that the origin of the pentangle has theological significance.
Hit is a syngne Þat Salamon set sumquyle
In bytoknyng of TrawÞe, bi tytle Þat hit habbez,
For hit is a figure Þat haldez fyue poyntez,
And vche lyne vmbelappez and loukez in oþer,
And ayquere hit is endelez (ll. 625-629).
The important word in the preceding passage is trawþe, which roughly translates to the word truth. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word trawþe in the 14th century has several meanings. One definition, which is the more frequently known definition in Modern English, “is the character of being, or disposition to be, true to a person, principle, cause, etc.” The other definitions pertain to a person’s moral character. One definition relates to virtue in a more general, worldl...

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