Our most recent text is written in Middle English, a far cry from Beowulf, and once again an anonymous narrative. How does this most recent script compare to other texts we’ve read? How does reading in Middle English affect your interpretation, if at all?
In Sir Orfeo, the Fairy King first does an evil deed by stealing away King Orfeo’s wife. Then, at the end, he does a good deed by following through with his promise (though reluctantly) and awarding Orfeo his wife. After reading this Lay, do you think the Fairy King to be good, evil, or neither?
Who is the Green Knight? What was his actual quest for Sir Gawain and what was his purpose for challenging King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table?
Animals play an important role in Middle English symbolism and culture. When Sir Gawain arrives at the castle, Bercilak and Gawain agree that Bercilak will go hunting while Gawain stays at the castle. At the end of each day, they will share what they received. Over the course of three days Bercilak hunts deer, boar, and finally fox. Discuss the significance of each of these animals. How do they contribute to the larger narrative?
Sir Gawain bravely asks to take on the Green Knight’s quest in place of King Arthur as seen in lines 343-361. He understands that he is given a year and a day to complete his challenge when he repeats the quest “in exact terms” (line 392) to the Knight. He also has no idea where the Green Chapel, home the the Green Knight, actually is. Why do you think Sir Gawain delays his departure until November first, giving him a little over two months to find the unknown whereabouts of the Green Chapel? And furthermore, why do you think he wastes more time at the castle when the deadline for his challenge, which he so bravely accepted, grows ever nearer?
How is the motif of color utilized to characterize the Green Knight? Is it used in other ways throughout poem?
Although Bisclavret’s wife betrayed him and leaves him as a werewolf in the woods, she keeps the clothes capable of turning him back. Why do you think this is? Is there underlying guilt or hope that one day she can turn him back? Or she did not want to risk him finding them? Since Bisclavret probably would’ve been able to find the clothes on his own if he would’ve looked, why do you think he accepted his fate in the woods so submissively?
How are the themes of loyalty and love conveyed and compared in Marie de France’s poems Lanval and Bisclavret?
When Beowulf and his men arrive to battle the dragon, they face difficulty right off the bat. Beowulf’s army, with the exception of Wiglaf, “did not take their stand in a troop around him, with warlike valor– they fled to the woods and saved their lives”. Are these men wrong for fleeing a situation they know they cannot win? Are they betraying Beowulf, or not because he normally handles such battles on his own? In some aspects, don’t they owe Beowulf for everything they have, therefore should they have left him?”