38 pages 1 hour read


Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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

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Part 1Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1 Summary

The story begins in King Arthur’s Britain, the origins of which the poet traces to ancient Greece and Rome. It is New Year’s in Camelot, and the court is celebrating the Christmas season with feasts, gift-giving, and tournaments. The lords and ladies settle down to eat, but Arthur is reluctant to begin without first hearing of or witnessing a “marvel” of some kind.

Just as the first course arrives, the door to the hall is thrown open and a huge green man atop a green horse rides in, carrying a holly branch in one hand and a green ax in the other. The court watches in amazement as the Green Knight rides up to the dais and demands to speak to the king. Arthur identifies himself, and the Knight explains that he has come to see for himself the court that possesses such an exalted reputation. To that end, he proposes a “Christmas game” (283): he will allow one of Arthur’s knights to swing his own ax at him, on the condition that that same knight seek him out in a year and a day and allow the Green Knight to do the same.

When the Knight’s offer meets with silence, he begins to mock the knights for their cowardice.