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Sir Gawain: The Most Chivalrous Knight

Chivalry has a long history and can be interpreted many different ways. The Code of

Chivalry was never set in stone, making it somewhat difficult to pinpoint what exactly it

consisted of. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, chivalry is the medieval knightly

system with its religious, moral, and social code. The qualities featured in the Code of Chivalry

would include honesty, courage, justice, helping the needy, and more. In order to be chivalrous,

the knights also had to avoid things like envy, pride, and dishonor.

Sir Gawain is mentioned in many stories such as The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame

Ragnell for Helping of King Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, The Story of Sir Perceval of

Galles first told by Chrtien de Troyes, and most famously known, Sir Gawain and the Green

Knight, first written as a poem by the Pearl Poet. In each of the named tales, Gawain displays

chivalrous behavior. From marrying a displeasing woman to willingly submitting to the Green

Knight in order to protect his king, Sir Gawain is obviously very loyal.

In The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell for Helping of King Arthur, Sir

Gawain married Lady Ragnell in order to save King Arthurs life. Gawain still held his head up

high and attempted to be a good husband even though Lady Ragnell was very ugly. Her face

was red and covered with snot, her mouth huge, and all her teeth yellow, hanging over her lips.

Her bleary eyes were greater than a ball, and her cheeks were as broad as womens hips. She had

a hump on her back, her neck was long and thick, and her hair clotted into a heap. She was made

like a barrel, with shoulders a yard wideNo tongue can tell of the foulness and ugliness of that

lady. After the ceremony, Lady Ragnell tells Sir Gawain that she could either be human by day

and monster by night or vice versa. Sir Gawain broke the curse dispelled on Lady Ragnell by
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letting her choose instead. Its her composure, so why not let her decide what she wants to do

with it?

Gawain only plays a fraction of The Story of Sir Perceval of Galles, but he is a major

role. Sir Perceval tragically dies in a jousting match, and his son, Perceval, is isolated by his

mother. Time passes and he runs into Sir Gawain and two other knights while travelling in the

forest. Perceval was searching for God, and told the knights that if they were not gods they

should either tell them who they are - or die. Long story short, Gawain convinced Perceval to try

to become a knight rather than commit murder. Its a simple concept, but even the most

simplistic deeds can be the most impacting.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight describes Sir Gawains coat of arms; his red shield

portrayed a golden pentangle, with each of the five points representing a different virtue of

knighthood generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry, and piety. Focusing on Sir Gawain and the

Green Knight, it concludes that Sir Gawain did not hesitate to defend King Arthur. When the

Green Knights challenge goes unanswered by all but King Arthur, feudal duty requires Gawain

to speak up and face this fearsome supernatural giant. In a display of loyalty, Gawain steps up to

protect his liege from injury to his pride as well as his body. (The Chivalric Gawain, p. 12).
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Work Cited

Leffert, Carleigh. The Chivalric Gawain. University of South Florida,




Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. SparkNotes, SparkNotes, 2003,

Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press.

The Shield of Gawain.

The Story of Sir Perceval of Galles. Arthurian Legend,


Tuma, George W., et al., editors. Harken To Me Middle English Romances In

Translation.Medieval Forum, Independent Scholar,