38 pages 1 hour read


Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | Adult | Published in 1397

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Important Quotes

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“And far over the French Sea, Felix Brutus

On many broad hills and high Britain he sets,

most fair.” 

(Part 1, Lines 13-15)

The idea that Britain’s origins could be traced back to ancient Rome (and thus, via Aeneas, Troy) did not originate with Sir Gawain; it is mentioned, for instance, in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th-century work The History of the Kings of Britain. In Sir Gawain, however, the notion serves an important thematic role, linking King Arthur’s court to cultures that medieval Europe viewed as the height of civilization. In this way, the poet begins to establish the juxtaposition between human society and nature from the work’s opening lines. 

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“High were their hearts in halls and chambers,

These lords and these ladies, for life was sweet.

In peerless pleasures passed they their days,

The most noble knights known under Christ,

And the loveliest ladies that lived on earth ever”

(Part 1, Lines 48-52)

The poet’s depiction of King Arthur’s court is at once complimentary and skeptical. On the one hand, the poet follows the lead of earlier works in depicting Camelot as a place where chivalry attained its highest form, calling the knights the “most noble known.” At the same time, however, he places these knights in a context that suggests their chivalry consists largely of courtly love and, more broadly, aristocratic manners and refinement; they are surrounded by “the loveliest ladies that lived on earth ever” and they live lives of “peerless pleasure.” The passage implies that the chivalry of Camelot is in some sense cut off from the world at large, which raises the question of how it will fare as a code of conduct once Gawain leaves court.