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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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1 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
English II Pre-AP

2 I. Timeline a little context Bayeux Tapestry 1077
1154—An English King (Henry II) back on the throne 1066—William the Norman invades and conquers England Medieval Period Viking/Anglo-Saxon Rule Norman Rule 410—Romans retreat from England 991—Battle of Maldon 1347—Black Death kills 50% of the population

3 II. Medieval Literature & Poetic Form
Alliterative Revival Bob-and-Wheel: a two- or three-syllable “bob” followed by a quatrain (the “wheel”) Bob is the bridge between long series of alliterative lines and the wheel Bob’s stress is on the last syllable Wheel usually contains three stressed syllables per line Rhyme scheme (beginning with bob) is ABABA

4 III. The Manuscript

5 III. The Manuscript Exists only in one 14th-century manuscript
Manuscript containing Gawain also contains three other poems, including Pearl Manuscript’s name = Cotton Nero A.x. (Hmmm… does this sound familiar?) Author = the “Pearl Poet;” clearly familiar with life of the nobiility

6 III. Romance Romance: An adventure tale that recounts the heroic deeds of knights and celebrates their chivalric way of life. They convey medieval values of loyalty and Christian faith Common Characteristics: Opens with a feast Involves a challenge Tells adventures of a young, nearly perfect hero Involves supernatural elements Teaches the hero a moral lesson Includes women as temptation Shows cyclical qualities of nature

7 IV. Epics Vs. Romances Long narrative poem
About the exploits of a single hero who is usually the savior/protector of his people The hero fights for an ideal, not to save his tribe. Usually goes on a quest. Exists in a warrior/shame culture (don’t shame your family name!) Exists in a courtly culture, where courtesy and reverence for women is as important as fighting skill Realistic setting (even if fantastic elements exist, such as dragons). The places, people, and economic conditions are often real. Idealization of places and people. Not meant to be realistic. Ends in death of the hero (Glorious and Honorable!) Happy ending! (almost always)

8 V. Code of Chivalry Chivalry: the code that guides the behavior of knights in romance literature. It requires a knight to… Swear allegiance to his lord Fight to uphold Christianity Seek to redress all wrongs Honor truth by word and deed Be faithful to one lady Act with bravery, courtesy, and modesty

9 VI. Courtly Love Courtly love: comes from “rules” the were developed to regulate the behavior of lovers Love songs and poems tell of a man’s unrequited love for a woman Lovelorn hero feels inferior to the woman and flatters her in song and verse Man does everything he can to refine himself to become worthy of her love Man desires to serve the woman and be rewarded with love To love her is exquisite pain, yet it gives him great joy (a paradox!) The woman can A) advance the affair and reward him, OR B) reject and spurn him.

10 VII. Plot Structure Interweaving narratives
Beheading game Quest Seduction tale Beheading Game – common in oral poetry Outsider comes to court and challenges. Hero accepts challenge. Hero gives outsider a blow, cutting off his head. Hero journey to the court of the outsider. Outsider tests the hero . Hero accepts the return blow and returns to court.

11 VIII. What do I Look For? Archetypes Use of the bob-and-wheel
Traits of Romances (and contrasts to what might happen in an epic) Structure – great deal of structural unity Use of parallels and balance Use of contrast and antithesis

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