Jan 28: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Parts 3 and 4

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?

14 thoughts on “Jan 28: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Parts 3 and 4

  1. The Greek Knight’s true identity is Bertilak of Hautdesert and his master is Morgan le Fay. (lines 2444-2446). The reason for challenging king Arthur and the knights was because his master wanted him to test the reputation of the knights of the round table, to see if they were as honorable as they claimed (lines2456-2459), and she also wanted to kill Queen Guinevere in the process of this (line 2460).

    • All of the things you’ve stated are correct as far as the Green Knight’s true identity and his intentions for testing King Arthur and his knights of the round table. In addition I’d like to add that it’s important to note the foreshadowing that led to this conclusion. In the beginning when the Green Knight first appears to King Arthur and his knights, he mentions the great reputation King Arthur’s kingdom has and proposes the contract, but asserts that King Arthur and all his men must be cowards when none of them jump to accept his proposal right away (309-315). He did so almost to provoke them to do exactly what he was testing of them–prove their courage and back up that reputation they’re known for.

  2. The Green Knight is really the lord of the castle in which Sir Gawain stayed over Christmas–his true name is Bertilak of Hautdesert. He reveals that he was sent by Morgan, who is actually Sir Gawain’s aunt and King Arthur’s half-sister, “To make trial of your pride, and to judge the truth Of the great reputation attached to the Round Table” (2457-2458). But Morgan, who is “well taught in magic arts” (2447) and possesses “many of Merlin’s occult powers” (2448), also sent the lord Bertilak of Hautdesert specifically in the strange and giant form of the Green Knight, “to drive you demented with this marvel, To have terrified Guenevere and caused her to die With horror at that figure who spoke like a specter With his head in his hand before the high table” (2459-2462). Basically, he was sent in the form of the Green Knight to test the great reputation of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table while simultaneously horrifying them.

  3. The Green Knight turns out to be the host of the castle in which Gawain has been staying. His real name being Bertilak de Hautdesert, he is the servent of the old woman at the castle. She told him to challenge the knights at Arthur’s rountable in order to scare Guinevere to death.

  4. The Green Knight is actually the lord of the castle Sir Gawain has been staying in, as well as the husband of the maiden who attempted to seduce him, which we learn was per his orders. “And my wife’s wooing of you: I arranged it myself. / I sent her to test you, and to me truly you seem / One of the most perfect men who ever walked on the earth” (2361-2363). He was testing Gawain’s pride and chivalry, seeing if he would treat his hosts with the utmost respect, which he did to the letter. The reason for this we find is much more sinister than originally believed. This challenge was all a plot devised by Morgan Le Fay, the sworn enemy of King Arthur and Camelot, who had attempted to sully the fame and repute of the Knights of the Round Table. The Green Knight says, “She sent me in this shape to your splendid hall / To make trial of your pride, and to judge the truth / Of the great reputation attached to the Round Table” (2456-2458). Morgan also had planned to kill Guenevere with shock when the giant’s severed head still spoke (all accomplished with her powerful magic), but she failed, and Sir Gawain’s nobility and chivalry ensured that her plan was a failure.

  5. As previously mentioned, the Green Knight is Bertilak of Hautdesert, the lord that Gawain had been staying with. The Green Knight was actually testing Gawain’s honesty and loyalty, using not only the task at hand but also his wife the previous days, ultimately deciding he is “one of the most perfect men who ever walked on the earth”(220). These challenges, including the one with the Knights of the Round Table, were so Morgan le Fay could test the reputation of the Round Table. Gawain’s actions therefore directly reflected the Round Table in her eyes, proving it to be mostly honest and courageous as it has been described, since Gawain had the courage to follow through on the deal.

  6. The Green Knight’s identity is revealed to the readers at the end of the narrative. He turns out to be Bertilak of Hautdesert, who is the lord of the Castle in which Sir Gawain stays in over Christmas. It was actually Morgan Le Fay (an enemy of Arthur) who devised the plot and made Bertilak of Hautdesert do the challenge. The purpose of the challenge was to test and try the honor and fame of the Arthur’s Kings of the Round Table. The point was to try to “make a trial of [their] pride, and to judge the truth” (2457). It tested to see if Sir Gawain would be able to resist the temptation of seducing Bertilak’s wife which would verify Sir Gawain’s true honor and chivalry.

  7. As stated above The Green Knight is Bertilak of Hautdesert. And he is the creature who appears at King Arthur’s Christmas feast, and Gawain’s host. His actual quest was all a plot to see if they were loyal. He explains how the old woman at the castle is really Morgan le Faye, Gawain’s aunt and King Arthur’s half sister.

  8. The Green Knight is Bertilak of Hautdesert. He challenged Arthur and Arthur’s knights of the Round Table because Morgan le Fay sent him to determine the merit of their character and reputation. Morgan le Fay wanted the knights to go crazy and for Guinevere to die of fright at the sight of a headless man riding away from their hall. The Green Knight’s actual quest for Sir Gawain was to see if he would cave into cowardice, temptation, and dishonesty. Even though Gawain hides the girdle from Bertilak, he wears it as a “token of the dishonesty. . . [he] was caught committing,” showing that he feels penance for his fraudulence (2509). The Green Knight clearly believes that Gawain has been successful in completing his quest when he calls him “one of the most perfect men who ever walked on the earth” (2363).

  9. As everyone’s already said, The Green Knight is actually Bertilak of Hautdesert whose master is Morgan le Fay. He reveals his challenge to be a test set up by Morgan to expose the knights of the round table as cowards and weaken the reputation of King Arthur’s court.

    One thing I would like to add to this though is Bertilak’s commitment to the task that he’s been given. Apart from being ordered by Morgan to challenge Arthur’s court, he doesn’t really have any stake in this matter. But he still proves that he wants to expose Arthur’s knights as cowards just like Morgan. This is shown by the fact that he didn’t have to give Gaiwan the scar on his neck. In fact he didn’t have to bring down that third blow at all, the second one proved his loyalty. But Bertilak took that extra step by actually leaving a mark on Gaiwan’s neck. It’s not a major detail, but I think it’s interesting how invested Bertilak was in this endeavor even though he didn’t necessarily have to be.

  10. The Green Knight is Bertilak of Hautdesert. Though I’m not sure if he was claiming to be the King of the castle that he attended or just of high ranking position because he then says “she sent me in this shape to your splendid hall to make trial of your pride, and to judge the truth of the great reputation attached to the Round table”(2460). Kings don’t usually get sent on quests.

    The purpose is to challenge the court and to see if it’s subjects were noble as they portray themselves via reputation. What is unclear is why his aunt would want King Arthur’s wife to do because she isn’t mentioned to have caused her any harm.

    Another point that’s not clear is if it was his aunt trying to woo him when she changed or if I missed understood who was actually doing the wooing.

  11. Obviously, the Green Knight is revealed to be under Morgan le Fay, so, clearly, he was testing Gawain’s chivalry, and how he does so is explicit, but why he’s doing so is much more implicit. “That lady made trial of [Gawain], tempting him many times” (l. 1549). Gawain’s refusal of these “trials” is a clear indication of his chivalry, which the Green Knight explicates when he tells Gawain, “‘I sent her to test you, and to me you truly seem / One of the most perfect men'” (ll. 2362-3). It’s interesting to note, however, that, subsequent to his ordeal with the woman and prior to his “duel” with the Green Knight, Gawain seeks penance for his sins, and a “priest absolved him completely” (l. 1883). The underlying way the Green Knight gauged Gawain’s chivalry is through Gawain’s acceptance of his mistakes. The Green Knight understands that mistakes are made even by the best of men, but “‘true [men] must pay back truly / Then he need nothing fear'” (ll. 2354-5). Furthermore, “‘[Gawain has] so cleanly confessed [himself], admitted [his] fault'” (l. 2391). Hanging the green belt from his neck, Gawain states, “‘This is the token of the dishonesty I was committing / And now I must wear it as long as I live'” (ll. 2509-2510). The Green Knight’s, Bertilak of Hautdesert, quest for Gawain was one to prove his status as a knight of the round table, but Gawain only fulfilled the Green Knight’s wish when he admitted his faults, rather than ignoring the fact he had any faults at all.

  12. While the discussion has concluded without a doubt that the Green Knight is none other than Bertilak of Hautdesert, I believe the intended effect of this character is as a servant of Morgan la Fey. In the Canon of Arthurian Lore, Morgan serves as an agent of evil who continues the biddings of the evil wizard Merlin. Both Bertilak and Morgan are weaved into the story for the purpose of testing the protagonist in two distinct ways. The unbecoming Part 3, which while reading emanates the vibe of everything I imagine 50 Shades of Grey to be like just set in a Medeival world, proves to be the most critical test of the noble Sir Gawain’s chivalry as he serves the will of the lady of the castle all while upholding a stoic defense of his host’s realm. Yet when we later later learn Sir Gawain feels he has failed in his quest we the reader see that it was necessary for the loyal knight to succumb to the erotic temptations of the third degree in order to secure safe passage throughout the end of his otherwise morbid New Years Game.
    I think the story of Sir Gawain leaves the reader with two main takeaways. The first of these being that the threat of temptation is ever present in a world where nothing is guaranteed. However when we loyally serve our King we are rewarded rather than punished and can live with our perceived failures when everyone is plain to see that you yourself are lucky to be alive with enough strength to complain of the injustices bestowed upon you. The second serves also as the concluding sentence of our fine story, “Evil be to him who evil thinks” (2531). I take from this originally latin conclusion that from the ambiguous conclusion one may conclude that our brave Sir Gawain leaves the narrative in a state in which he feels he has done a great dishonor to his King. If we the reader are to interpret this story as a motivational piece for monks coming of age iin their religious professions while still coexisting with the vices of civilization it would be worthwhile to write an epic on the strife one faces on this pious jouurney and how the bravery of knights serves to better the position of dais.

  13. The Green Knight is really the Lord of the castle that Gawain has been staying at over the Christmas holidays- Bertilak of Hautdesert. Bertalik had been transformed into the Green Giant by Morgan le Fay (Arthur’s half sister and also the older woman in the Bertilak’s house) “To make Trial of your pride, and to judge the truth/ Of the great reputation attached to the Round table” (2456-2457). Bertilak also reveals that he sent his wife to test him and that he seems “One of the most perfect men who ever walked on the earth” (2362-2363). So, Morgan le Fay wanted to test the honor of the men of Camelot and see if they were truly as honorable as their reputation made them out to be and it seems that they have passed the test. The two men depart on good terms, and Gawain remains alive (he only received a small injury to the back of the neck!), and Gawain heads back to Camelot. Back in Camelot, Gawain regales his tale to the court but then shows them the cut he received for being dishonest about not telling the Lord that he was given the green belt from the Lady (his wife). This brings Gawain great shame, but the rest of the court laughs. However, they decide that they will all bear his shame together and that all knights of Camelot will wear green in support of Gawain.

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