Mar 28: Sir Gawain and The Green Knight: Part 1-2

Why does Sir Gawain and The Green Knight begin with mentions of Troy and Rome? Why are Aeneas (Troy) and Romulus (Rome) mentioned before King Arthur (Britain)? Aeneas, Romulus and King Arthur are all literary characters with a “historical” significance. Is there a comparison that is being made between King Arthur and his Knights and the conquering forces of Aeneas and Romulus? Does the Green Knight then represent the natural force of Britain that King Arthur and his knights are conquering or something else?

3 thoughts on “Mar 28: Sir Gawain and The Green Knight: Part 1-2

  1. I think the main reason that Aeneas and Romulus are mentioned alongside King Arthur is to provide an historical backdrop for the beginning of the tale. I do not necessarily believe that this comparison is meant to invoke the idea of conquest over the land. That being said, there could be a strong argument for the Green Knight representing natural forces. Perhaps most obviously is that he is clad in green, a color one normally associates with the natural world, also embroidered on his belt are images of “birds and insects”, his horse (also being green) is “hard to hold”, implying the wildness of nature.

    Most interestingly though is the fact that, despite being decapitated, the Green Knight survives. The blending of natural and supernatural elements is a common trope that we have been studying this semester, and the implication here seems to be that not only is nature uncontrollable, but attempts to conquer it are outside the realm of possibility. That is not to say that nature is naturally adversarial, as the lord (later revealed to be the Green Knight himself) showers Gawain in gifts and hospitality – representing man’s reliance on the goods of the natural world.

  2. Both Aeneas and Romulus created a great civilization, and in this case, a civilization that ended up taking over England for a period of time, Rome. Both of these figures are also probably fictitious, or they at least did not exist in the way their stories said they did. King Arthur did the same. He began the Britain that we think of today when we think of the Middle Ages, just as Aeneas and Romulus were both said to be the beginners of Rome. In my reading, the Green Knight stood for a mythical entity, and we find this to be true by the end of the tale. In a way, the Green Knight reminds me of a Chaucerian Dream Vision, on in which nature appears in splendor and vivid green. It would certainly tie in to the fantastical qualities of the Green Knight that we see in the story.

  3. I’m reminded of how poets invoke literary epics to plant their flag in the tradition. While “Sir Gawain” isn’t an epic proper, it is a heroic verse that is meant to entertain and to teach. I agree with Billy that there is a historical background aspect meant to ground the reader, but I don’t think it’s necessarily limited to that. The Green Knight represents Nature Herself and thus is worthy of a mythological telling.

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