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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Page history last edited by Mr. Mullen 4 months, 1 week ago

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight



The Big Ideas:

  • As Medieval literature, SGAK can be read in light of the four "pillars" of Medieval philosophy and ethics: Greek philosophy, Roman law (the natural law), Old Testament justice (submission), and New Testament ethics (caritas).
  • The Medieval mind saw everything as a theophany-- a microcosm of a higher, divine reality. Arthur's court, for example, is a theophany or microcosm of the court of heaven ruled by God; Gawain's armor is a theophany of the divine grace that protects people from evil. Much Medieval literature, therefore, is allegorical. See a discussion of allegory in Literary Terms.
  • LIfe is an iter mentis ad deo-- a journey or pilgrimage to the divine. Those who pratice caritas-- submission to God and concern for others-- would ascend to that higher reality. Those ensnared in cupiditas-- self-serving and selfish love-- would be punished.
  • SGAK is unique among the romances of the period because of its ironic tone and sarcastic wit.

  • Levels of Interpretation:

  • Learn how to analyze the metaphorical values of an image, particularly the green girdle.



The Unicorn Tapestries

an example of Medieval allegorical art that can be read on several interpretive levels:




  • Prominent motifs:

  • games
  • armor
  • hunting

SGAK is alliterative verse:

An excerpt from the poem in the original mid-14th century dialect: Sir Gawain excerpt

Karass Quests

Each karass quest is worth 30 class points for karass members who are present: 12 points for the discussion, 12 for the quality of the presentation, and 6 for trenchant and insightful close reading. If you are absent for a karass quest, see the makeup quest at the end of each page.


Sir Gawain Fit 1


Sir Gawain Fit 2


Sir Gawain Fit 3


Sir Gawain Fit 4



 AP exam prompts


Go to the AP Writing Gateway Page


AP exam essay prompts relevant to SGAK

The prompts below are from recent AP exams in Literature. You will choose one and respond in terms of SGAK.



2006, Form B. In many works of literature, a physical journey - the literal movement from one place to another - plays a central role. Choose a novel, play, or epic poem in which a physical journey is an important element and discuss how the journey adds to the meaning of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.


Go to http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/members/repository/ap06_englishlit_formB_samples_q3.pdf for sample essays and scoring commentary on this prompt.


2007, Form B. Works of literature often depict acts of betrayal. Friends and even family may betray a protagonist; main characters may likewise be guilty of treachery or may betray their own values. Select a novel or play that includes such acts of betrayal. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze the nature of the betrayal and show how it contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.


Go to http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/repository/ap07_englit_formb_q3.pdf for sample essays and scoring commentrary on this prompt.


Sir Gawain Music


 Angelus ad Virginem.doc "Angelus ad virginem," a medieval Christmas carol that would have been sung at court, not in church. 


 Alma Redemptoris Mater.doc "Alma Redemptoris Mater," a chant you would hear in church or a monastery


"Ne Qu'on Porroit"

A Medieval Love Song by Guillaume de Machaut (b.1300?- d. 1377) 


Ne qu'on porroit les estoiles nombrer,
Quant on les voit luire plus clerement,
Et les goutes de pluie et de la mer,
Et la greve seur quoy elle s'estent,
Et compasser le tour dou firmament,
Ne porroit on penser ne concevoir
Le grant desir que j'ay de vous veoir.


(It is no more possible to count the stars
Shining so brightly up above
And the rain drops and the sea
And the shore along which it stretches
And measure the breadth of the heavens
Than it is to imagine or conceive of
The great desire I have to see you.)



Quant la doulce jouvencelle

Text: http://asteriamusica.org/texts/01quant.html





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