38 pages 1 hour read


Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Character Analysis

Sir Gawain

Sir Gawain, the poem’s protagonist, is a young knight of Arthur’s court, as well as the king’s nephew. Though he describes himself as “the weakest […] and of wit feeblest” (354) of Arthur’s knights, his modesty is a matter of convention and itself a testament to Gawain’s virtues. As the poet depicts him, Gawain is a near-perfect model of knightly character. He is strong, loyal, pious, pure, merciful, and brave—or, as Lord Bertilak puts it, “As pearls to white peas, more precious and prized, / So is Gawain, in good faith, to other gay knights” (2364-2365).

Gawain’s excellent qualities are put to the test over the course of the story. Gawain proves faithful in his promise to the Green Knight, setting out in search of the Green Chapel and persisting in his quest even though doing so requires passing through and overcoming many dangers. However, the primary conflict Gawain faces is an internal one: he must resist the temptations posed by Lady Bertilak. Ultimately, Gawain proves adept at rebuffing Lady Bertilak’s sexual advances, but his fear of appearing discourteous couples with his desire to survive, and he accepts the girdle she offers him.