Mar 30: Sir Gawain & The Green Knight: Fitt III-IV

Fitt III is viewed as a break from the action of the poem. Sir Gawain and the Lord of the castle have agreed to exchange what they receive during their days. Sir Gawain stays at the castle and the Lord goes hunting. What is the significance of the gifts that they exchange at the end of each day or don’t exchange? Also what is the overall significance of Fitt III?

6 thoughts on “Mar 30: Sir Gawain & The Green Knight: Fitt III-IV

  1. The true significance of Fitt III cannot really be seen until Fitt IV is read and all the truth is revealed regarding the identity of Bertilak, the lord, as the Green Knight. With the fourth Fitt in mind, what become most obviously significant is Gawain’s failure to turn over the green girdle to the lord of the castle. This breaking of their pact is particularly interesting because it reflects not only a flaw in Gawain’s honesty, but also reveals some cowardice about him; he is scared of facing the Green Knight and keeps the girdle because he believes it will protect him. While such action may seem perfectly logical to a modern reader, in the context of the story that lack of distinct bravery may have had a significant impact on how the medieval reader viewed Sir Gawain. In addition, the way the lord gives so freely and graciously, giving Sir Gawain the best meat and the boars head, causes the reader to view him a certain way; the reader sees the lord as kind and courteous and good. Therefore, when its revealed that the lord is actually the Green Knight, the reader’s view of the knight is changed as well, perhaps even conflicted as they try to reconcile and mesh the kind lord and the supernatural knight. Fitt III adds another layer of character development for both Sir Gawain and the lord/Green Knight that causes the reader to think critically and create judgements about each character.

  2. The Lord and Gawain’s experiences are intended to appear as mirror images of each other. While the Lord is out hunting the various fauna of the region, Gawain is being pursued by the Lord’s wife, turning the medieval idea of a man’s pursuit of a lady being a type of hunt on its head. Taking the concept of nature into account, the Lord always brings Gawain valuable natural goods (for those who don’t know, a pig’s head actually contains some of the most tender meat) implicating nature as the most hospitable of hosts. However, on the final day, Gawain does not exchange the belt given to him by his host’s wife, which is perceived as a moral failing on the part of Gawain, proving he is imperfect despite being considered an honorable knight.

  3. The gifts are supposed to put Sir Gawain on an equal level as Bertilak. It is also supposed to test him. In a way, the hunt is also supposed to reflect Lady Bertilak’s hunt of Gawain, in a way. I think the last hunt, with the fox, is the most important, since the fox is a symbol of cunning, and it is here that Gawain hides the girdle he has received from Lady Bertilak. The third “gift” is the most important, in that way.

  4. It has always seemed strange to me that the Lord gives all of the game they bring back to Gawain. It seems like a gift in name only, since there’s no way Gawain can take three days’ worth of hunting back to Camelot when he leaves, and it’s going to be stored at the lord’s castle anyway until he does leave, during which time I’m sure he shares it with the Lord and all the men and women at their meals. So maybe he gets first choice at the meal? But that seems like it would be the case anyway, since he’s the guest. So in what way is all of the game really his? On the other hand, from the lord’s laughter when Gawain gives him the kisses, I get the feeling maybe the whole thing was treated as a lighthearted, not really serious game by both of them. Which makes sense, considering that the Green Knight is essentially testing Gawain the whole time.

  5. The entire exchange between Sir Gawain and the Lord in the castle is actually a test of knighthood by the Green Knight, only understood at the end of the tale. Its significance is in the fact that although the Lord holds up his end and gives Gawain his winnings from the hunt (on top of being a great host), Gawain does not give up the girdle and instead neglects to tell the Lord he has it at all. This act, as well as accepting the kisses from Lady Bertilak at all) is a violation of one of the five virtues of knighthood, courtesy. However, in Fitt IV, the Lord reveals himself as the supernatural Green Knight and lets Sir Gawain go, claiming that he is a noble knight after all. This is a complicated notion that presents the idea that humans may be imperfect, even knights, and that does not necessarily make them bad. Of course, the color of the girdle (green and gold) also acts as a representative of nature, maybe demonstrating the natural condition of humans to be imperfect despite their best efforts.

  6. The significance of the gifts are supposed to test honestly of the knight Gawain. Anything obtained in the castle by Gawain is already technically the Lord of the castle’s belonging. While the wife pursues Gawain, and Gawain resists temptations, he must always keep his promise to give the Lord whatever he obtained that day. By doing so, he proves that he is a a true knight by displaying his honesty, even though he did not explain who gave him those things. Overall this entire section is a test for Gawain.

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