Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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  • "Sir, you are welcome in this place..." (line 34) said the generous King Arthur.
  • "If any man holds himself, here in this house, so hardy, so bold in his blood - and so brainless in his head - that he dares to stoutly exchange one stroke for another, I shall let him have as my present this lovely gisarme, this ax..." (lines 67-71)
  • Once upon a time, King Arthur and his Knights were throwing a Christmas party when, all of a sudden, the Green Knight burst through the door proposing a game to play.
  • "Wait!" called Sir Gawain, King Arthur's nephew. "I myself am the weakest, of course, and in wit most feeble; my life would be least missed" (lines 136-137) he continued, "and if one person must die, let it be me."
  • The Green Knight mocks the Knights of the Round Table because they balk at his challenge. King Arthur furiously berates the Green Knight, and then flippantly accepts his challenge. But before he can swing the ax...
  • Gawain "slashed at the naked neck; the sharp of the battleblade shattered asunder the bones and sank through the shining fat and slit it in two" (lines 154-156)
  • The Green Knight told Gawain to strike a killing blow with the ax. However, whatever strike Gawain laid upon the Green Knight, the Green Knight would respond with the same blow a year and a day later.
  • Now headless, the Green Knight implored, "Seek till you find me...as you've sworn in this hall to do...Come to the Green Chapel, I charge you, and take the same stroke as you've given...Come or be counted a coward." (lines 180-187)
  • "If taking my ring would be wrong on account of its worth, and being so much in my debt would be bothersome to you, I'll give you this sash that's of slighter value...the man who goes into battle in this green lace, as long as he keeps it looped around him, no man under Heaven can hurt him." (lines 206-234)
  • And so, Gawain went on his quest. He stumbled upon a castle on his way, and the lord of the castle offered to let him stay on the terms of trade laid down by him. Every day, Gawain would give the lord whatever he received that day, and in return the lord would give Gawain that day's hunt. Gawain agrees. On the first two days, the lady only offers kisses, but on the third day, she offers him something more even as he refused her expensive gifts.
  • He strikes once! Gawain flinches away.
  • He goes to strike again! But pauses to contemplate Gawain's heartiness.
  • "Hit me, hero! I'm up to here with your threats! Is it you that's the cringing coward after all?" (lines 292-293)
  • He strikes, for real this time! But only...a scratch!
  • Sash looped round his abdomen, Gawain goes in search of the Green Knight. Upon finding him, Gawain braces himself for the blow.
  • "Cursed be cowardice and covetousness both, villainy and vice that destroy all virtue!" (lines 366-367)
  • The Green Knight, who was also the lord of the castle, gave Gawain a reasonable strike for each day spent at his home. For the first day, when trade was completed, Gawain did not receive a blow. The second strike, to represent the second day in the castle, also spared Gawain's life. However, when he lied on the third day, the response was a blow to the neck.
  • Gawain, feeling terrible and cowardly, repents and apologizes. The kind Green Knight does not blame him, for it was only out of love of life that Gawain lied. The Green Knight offers to let Gawain stay at his home, but Gawain feels that he should return to Camelot and King Arthur.
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