Illustrate Note Explain Roles Religion Sir Gawain Green Knight Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Sir Gawain

Religion features prominently in the 14th century text Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The story reveals the interface between indigenous pagan faiths and Christianity, especially as the two converge in the colonized Celtic regions such as Wales. As the story champions the hero, Sir Gawain, a Christo-centric message is being conveyed. Sir Gawain, although a problematic hero, is redeemed through his unwavering faith in Jesus and Mary. Christianity is presented as the prevailing social and religious order, replacing the pagan worldview. At the same time, the pagan worldview continues to provide a foundation and stability that is pervasive in the text. Religion in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is represented fully by Gawain's shield, bearing the image of Mother Mary on one side and the symbol of a pre-Christian Mother Goddess on the other. Christianity would express itself in Britain as a fusion of pagan and Christological beliefs, embodied by Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Much of the story revolves around the Christian calendar, and time is a Christian concept in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Christian holidays punctuate social events; this is a Christmas story. There is a reason why the Green Knight summons a knight of the Round Table to return again the following year. It is a reference to the cycle of rebirth, and the symbolism of resurrection. The Green Knight's severed head also represents the symbolism of death and resurrection, as he is shown to conquer death. Part Two of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight mentions further Christian holidays throughout the solar year including Lent and All Saints' Day, which would have supplanted the pagan Samhain.

The first overtly religious and symbolic passage of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is in Book Two, when Gawain describes in detail his shield. On one side of the shield is depicted Christ's mother the Virgin Mary. She is the image closest to Gawain's heart, and it is to Mary and to Jesus that Gawain prays. Gawain is a stalwart Christian and remains so throughout the poem. His Christianity is devout, and in direct contrast to the lingering signs of paganism evident throughout the lands in which he travels. The Green Knight is, for instance, clearly a non-Christian entity. His barging in on King Arthur's Christmas feast shows his disdain for, or at least indifference toward, the Christian holiday and calendar. Moreover, the Green Knight represents the pagan "Green Man," who was a forest god. As such, the Green Knight is unafraid entirely of King Arthur's political power, his social status, or the meaning of Christianity. Thus, when he invites any knight to undertake the challenge, the Green Knight is essentially challenging Christianity. When Gawain takes up the Green Knight on his challenge, he does so valiantly and with a clear attempt to prove his own prowess. Gawain behaves nobly and it portrayed as the quintessential Christian hero. He resists the charms of a sexy lady who comes not once but three times to his…

Sources Used in Document:

References

Arkin, L. (1995). The role of women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Retrieved online: http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/arkin.html

"Religion Among the Laity." Retrieved online: http://sitemaker.umich.edu/religiousobjects/pentangle

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Retrieved online: http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/sggk_neilson.pdf

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