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Schoket 1 Martin Schoket Ann Martinez ENGL 312 24 July 2012 Supplanting Do inance!

"eligion Dyna ic# in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Sir Gawain and the Green Knight$ %ritten &y the anony ou# 'earl 'oet$ i# a tale a&out the reno%ne( nephe% o) *ing Arthur$ Sir Ga%ain$ an( hi# encounter %ith the agical Green

*night$ later re+eale( a# Lor( ,ertilak$ in an Arthurian allegory e-hi&iting &oth o+ert an( +eile( co entarie# on co peting i(eologie#. /n thi# )ourteenth century yth$ the t%o character#$

Ga%ain an( the Green *night$ e erge a# polarizing )igure# repre#enting +er#ion#$ though po##i&ly le## i(ealize($ o) the i(eology$ 0hri#tianity an( 'agani# $ they re#pecti+ely e &o(y. Sir Ga%ain1# characterization i# e##entially )or e( aroun( alrea(y %ell2e#ta&li#he( conception# o) Arthurian knight#$ chi+alric co(e# an( the high court #ocial #trata o) the ti e$ %ith co 0hri#tian the e# o) religiou# (uty an( %or#hip$ (i+ine in#piration or %orking to pro ote Ga%ain1# on

oti+ation#$ an( repentance

o entary e &o(i ent o) a 0hri#tian hero. 3he Green *night

an($ &y pro-y$ Lor( ,ertilak$ the true per#ona o) the (uel (ual character$ i# pre#ente( %ith a (eci(e(ly y#tical per#onage an( #upernatural attri&ute#$ &ut re ain# hu anoi( to aintain the

hu ani#tic allegory

eant to contra#t an( #u&tly criti4ue the po#turing )al#ene## an( hypocritical

0hri#tian #y &ol &uilt up in Ga%ain. 3he 5u-tapo#e( i age o) the 'agan repre#entation$ per#oni)ie( &y the Green *night$ i# pre#ent #o a# to #upplant the encroaching (o inance o) 0hri#tian i(eal#$ typi)ie( &y Sir Ga%ain$ &oth geographically an( literarily$ creating an enticing religiou# (yna ic that pro pt# 4ue#tioning o) truth an( (eception. /n a tu ultuou#$ totalitarian an( onarchal onarchical ti e perio($ thi# +eile( approach

Schoket 2 to critici# i# 4uite &ol(. /t %ill &e %orth%hile to place in conte-t the hi#tory o) Englan( an(

Europe1# religiou# con+er#ion to 0hri#tianity (uring the ti e Sir Gawain and the Green Knight %a# pu&li#he($ a# al o#t the %hole o) Europe$ o#t nota&ly northern region#$ gra(ually accepte(

0hri#tianity in )a+or o+er 'agani# . /n hi# &ook$ The Barbaric Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity$ "ichar( 6letcher$ hi#torian an( re#earcher at the 7ni+er#ity o) 8ork$ in+e#tigate# 9the proce## &y %hich large part# o) Europe$: #peci)ically 9in the %e#t an( north o) Europe$: accepte( 9the 0hri#tian )aith &et%een the )ourth an( )ourteenth centurie# an( #o e o) the cultural con#e4uence# that )lo%e( there)ro : ;-i2-ii<. 3he 'earl 'oet$ &elie+e( to ha+e authore( the tale to%ar(# the en( o) 6letcher1# in+e#tigati+e #cope$ appro-i ately 13=0 to 1400$ coul( ha+e &een %riting out o) ani o#ity &ecau#e$ a# 6letcher (e#cri&e#$ 9> ?o#t o) the trace# o) Ger anic pagani# >ha(? &een (iligently o&literate( &y it# 0hri#tian #upplanter: (uring prece(ing era# an(

the ti e in %hich Gawain %a# pu&li#he( ;4<. 3he congruency in the hi#torical an( literary (ate# pro+i(e# #o e e+i(ence a# to the i petu# the 'earl 'oet criticizing the pre+ailing religiou# i(eology o) the ti e. An( o) the ti e$ the i(ealize( 0hri#t2like )igure in o#t Arthurian tale# %a# *ing Arthur ight ha+e ha( an( &een catalyze( &y in

hi #el). @o%e+er$ in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight$ the tra(itional e phatic (epiction i# le##ene( a# Arthur1# role in the tale co in the )ir#t part o) the poe an(# le## attention to hi# character$ an( i# only acti+e

%herea# Ga%ain per#i#t# )ocally throughout. Sir Ga%ain$ &eing the

ain character an( na e#ake o) the poe $ i# o&+iou#ly a))or(e( the no&le i portance an( )ocu# *ing Arthur i# u#ually en(o%e( %ith$ there&y ha+ing the 0hri#tian +alue# a##ociate( %ith Arthur an( the high court i parte( to Ga%ain1# character. 3he#e are +alue# o) %hich he u#t repre#ent

)aith)ully or )ace the #crutiny o) the ari#tocracy &y )ailing to uphol( the piou# i age they try to aintain. 3aking on the Green *night1# challenge an( allo%ing Arthur to #tay #a)e in hi#

Schoket 3 king(o $ Ga%ain act# a# the archetypical$ al&eit te porary$ 0hri#t2like knight$ re#ulting in hi# polarity %ith the 'agan #y &ol$ the Green *night. Aillia 6. Aoo(#$ o) Aichita State 7ni+er#ity$ argue# that 9>t?he great green hor#e an(

ri(er %ho in+a(e Arthur1# ha+en o) polite cheer are icon# o) a %orl( out2o)2(oor# an( a 5ourney in%ar(: ;20B<. 3he#e green icon# o) a %orl( out2o)2(oor#$ the natural %orl($ re#onate hea+ily %ith the 'agan tra(ition$ )or in the pantheon o) 'agan go(# an( go((e##e# re#i(e# 3he Great @orne( Go($ lor( o) the %oo(lan(#$ the hunt an( ani al#C #i ilarly$ he i# the o))#hoot o) the cro##2cultural Green Man literary character an( 'an$ the Green go( o) the %oo(lan(# in Greek ythology. Author Gary ". Darner %rote the &ook Mythic Forest, the Green Man and the Spirit of at!re to e-plore the#e +ariou# ren(ering# o) thi# ne&ulou# Green Man )igure. @i# re#earch #ho%# the ultiple interpretation# to &e )oun( in a nu &er o) ythologie#$ &ut a((# #peci)ic

ention to an( a re#er+ation o) an entire chapter to the 'agan Green Man ;124<. Darner po#it# that o#t o) the naturali#tic attri&ution# o) the Green Man %ere )or e( &y 'agan yth#$

pro+i(ing #o e a((itional #upport )or the Green *night1# ca#e a# a 'agan #y &ol an( oppo#ing (yna ic to the 0hri#tian Ga%ain. No%here i# Ga%ain1# 0hri#tian character #u&#u e( an( e-plicate( ore than in the

(etail# o) hi# heral(ic (e+ice$ the pentangle #hiel($ that incorporate# e+erything a proper an( goo( )aith knight #houl( &e e-pecte( o). Ga%ain1# #hiel( recei+e# uch attention in the poe $

an( i# (e#cri&e( in a ple (etail ;E1B2EB<$ incorporating the e# o) #y &olic i(enti)ication o) no&ility$ chi+alry an( )aith. 3he #igni)icance o) Ga%ain1# #hiel($ in relation to hi# i(entity$ hi# en(2purpo#e in the 5ourney an( hi# o%n #el) %orth$ i# only genuine to the character# o) the poe &ecau#e Ga%ain1# actual action# contra(ict %hat i# #o (ear a (e+ice to hi $ the #y &olic heral(ry$ hi# no&le #igni)ier$ like that o) a *ing1# cro%n. 3he #hiel( only #er+e# to propagate

Schoket 4 Ga%ain1# #uppo#e( oral# ;E=E<$ pro(ucing an apparent contra#t %ith #peci)ic #y &olic ore a&oun(ing$ po##i&ly 'agan$ orality$

principle# the #hiel( e-u(e# ;E2E<$ %hich elicit# a general critici# #enti ent. /n the #a e +ein$ the Green *night co

o) 0hri#tianity$ or a co &ination o) all the

oral$ religiou# an( #ocial

an(# hi# attention an( re#pect )ro

the

#pectacle that i# hi# copiou#ly (e#cri&e( #upernatural an( largely green pre#ence$ &oth in #tature an( aura. ,eing 9>h?al) a giant on earth: an( 9no le## than the large#t o) unu#ual proportion# are atche( &y the #trong en$: hi# i en#e an( an an( gear

i-ture o) color #y &oli# $ 9>)?or

an( all F Aere green a# green coul( &e: ;1302=0<. @i# &o(y i# a(orne( %ith a 9coat cut clo#e >G? H) )ur# cut an( )itte($: a##ure(ly 9the )a&ric >i#? no&le$: #igni)ying hi# pree inence an( allo%ing )or the interpretation o) a prie#tly or or(aine( nature ;1=224<. 3he any )ur# an( con#tant

rein)orce ent o) green throughout the e+er2i portant &ela&or# in (e#cription# o) Arthurian gar& place# a +ery high e pha#i# on an($ at the #a e ti e$ uncertainty o) the *night1# origin#$ literarily$ culturally an( e+en #piritually$ a# court e &er# an( rea(er# alike try to pin (o%n the

author1# inten(e( or un(er#too( gene#i#. 'ro5ecting 'agan parallel# onto the character %oul( #ee to ha+e hi )it the ol($ i) thi# i# the interpretation$ a# %ell a# e-plain the y#ti4ue o)

e+erything green an( #upernatural a&out hi . 3he (e#cription# o) Sir Ga%ain1# #hiel( an( the (e+ice o) the pentangle$ %ith all o) it# particular rein)orcing color #y &oli# ;E1B220<$ re+eal# to rea(er# that #uch oral intere#t# can

&e )oun( in$ a# Geral( Morgan (e#cri&e#$ 9e-ceptionally intricate )or #: ;Morgan$ IEBC Green&latt$ E1B2EB<. 3hi# i# i portant )or Ga%ain &ecau#e al o#t hi# entire i(entity a# a knight o) the "oun( 3a&le an( i age o) no&ility i# in+e#te( into the principle# uphel( &y the #y &oli# in the #hiel( an( the pentangle heral(ry ;E2123$ E34<. /t i# #a)e to a##ert that thi# i# Ga%ain1#

Schoket = pu&licize( oral co pa## u#e( )or hi# po#turing aroun( the king(o . Aith hi# oral# &eing the

)i)th o) the pentangle1# )i+e )i+e# ;E=1<$ Ga%ain only #ee # to e-hi&it one +irtue$ %hich o+erlap# %ith another$ that o) 9&rotherly lo+e F An( pure in( an( anner#$: once he ha# un(ertaken the

challenge at the grace o) hi# king ;E=3<. A# he i# truly$ 9in #peech: only$ a 9 o#t courteou# knight: ;E3B<$ #uppo#e(ly 9)aultle## in hi# )i+e #en#e#$ F Nor )oun( e+er to )ail in hi# )i+e )inger#: ;E4122<$ Ga%ain &e#eechingly$ %ith al o#t o+er2#aturate( hu ility$ a#k# Arthur$ %ith an air o) &ra+ery 9&e)ore all: in the hall$ 9that thi# elee &e >hi#?: alone ;3412E1<. De#pite the i portance

gi+en to thi# group o) +irtue# an( hi# gran(io#e portrayal o) courage$ Ga%ain1# action# o) co%ar(ice$ gree( an( o i##ion (uring hi# interaction %ith Lor( ,ertilak ;22=B223JJ<$ the Green *night$ contra(ict the e#ta&li#he( eaning in )or o) the pentangle$ lea+ing the 4ue#tion o)

Ga%ain1# parallele( i(entity in 5eopar(y. 3he Green *night1# i(entity i# al#o #o ething that i# le)t to 4ue#tion. /n he re ain# in the )or o#t in#tance#$

o) the Green *night. @o%e+er$ a# Ga%ain1# )oray progre##e# into the

%il(erne## an( e+entual arri+al at @aut De#ert$ 9a #tronghol( great$: 9on groun(# )air an( green$ in a goo(ly park F Aith a pali#a(e o) paling# plante( a&out F 6or t%o ile# an( ore$: he

happen# upon the re#i(ence o) Lor( ,ertilak$ the true per#ona &ehin( the Green *night ;IEJ2I1<. E+en the peculiarity o) ,ertilak1# lu#h$ +egetati+e king(o $ #urroun(e( &y an area %here 9the %inter %a# %or#e: ;I2E<$ a((# another y#tical ele ent highly re(olent o) 'agani# an(

(irectly connecte( to ,ertilak1# alter ego$ the Green *night. A co ely Lor( hi #el)$ ,ertilak an( the #pace# in hi# anor are &oth (epicte( in the #a e light a# the Green *night upon hi#

entrance into the court o) 0a elot$ %ith %here )ur# an( green an( gol( a&oun( ;J432I4<. ,ut he i# 9#o co ely: that 9a ortal ne+er 0hri#t a(e a# he$: an( %hate+er 4ue#tion# o) hi# place o) artial ri+alry:

&irth there %ere$ 9>i?t #ee e( he %ell

ight &e F Aithout a peer on earth F /n

Schoket E ;JEB2I4<. 3hi# e))ecti+ely co unicate# hi# ele+ate( po#ition a&o+e the e#ta&li#he( 0hri#t2like

)igure#$ %hich are #uppo#e( to &e the clo#e#t to the i age$ an( gi+e# the perception o) the author1# )a+ora&ility in the oppo#ite. 3he #hiel($ in )urther relation to Ga%ain an( no% hi# en(2purpo#e in the 5ourney$ i# an e-act re in(er o) hi# #el)2%orth an( the glory in triu ph. Not only i# he #tri+ing to pro+e hi# chi+alric #el)2%orth in the real o) *ing Arthur an( the court$ &ut al#o i# ackno%le(ging the

religiou# (i en#ion$ %here it i# hi# )aith an( (uty to repre#ent 9the )i+e %oun(# F 3hat 0hri#t got on the cro##: an( #ati#)y 9>h?i# one thought >G? pa#t all thing# el#e$ F 3hat all hi# )orce %a# )oun(e( on the )i+e 5oy#: o) the i aculate conception an( Dirgin Mary ;E422I<. An($ o) the

&e)ittingly$ the #hiel( ha($ 9on the inner part$: the i age o) Mary portraye( to re in( hi

#ource o) hi# courage ;E4J2B<. Ahen couple( %ith the )act that Ga%ain con)e##e# hi# )ault# to the court upon hi# return ;2=0=212<$ the (e+ote attention gi+en to the religiou# connection o) Ga%ain1# #el)2%orth an( en(2purpo#e in the 5ourney #ugge#t# that courage i# an i portant ele ent in the oral #che e o) the poe $ po##i&ly i plying critical un(ertone# again#t the high2 to ele+ate it# pre#ence in

court 0hri#tian no&ility an( #upplanting nuance# o) 'agan #y &oli# the %ake o) the a##u e( 0hri#tian critici# . Hne la#t glaring critici#

can &e )oun( in the interaction# &et%een Sir Ga%ain$ the Green

*night an( Lor( ,ertilak. 3he religion (yna ic ha# t%o cru-e# highlighte( &y the interaction &et%een the #y &olic religiou# )igure#. 3he )ir#t &eing the Green *night1# propo#al to Arthur )or 9>a?# #toutly to #trike one #troke )or another$: %hich i# a re#oun(ing propo#ition o) K(o unto other# a# you %oul( ha+e the (o unto you$1 the )oun(ational gol(en rule o) 0hri#tianity$ Luke a5or tenet o) hi# )aith$ although cle+erly rhetorical a# it

E!31. 6ailing to recognize an( hee( a

ay &e$ Ga%ain again lo%er# hi# cre(i&ility a# a truly piou# 0hri#tian$ &ut the rhetoric al#o a((#

Schoket I a 4ue#tion o) the Green *night1#$ +i# L +i# Lor( ,ertilak1#$ an( the 'earl 'oet1# intention#. /# Lor( ,ertilak tran# itting a le##on through (eceptionM Di( the 'earl 'oet (o thi# to rai#e the +eneration o) 'agani# M 3he #econ( in+er#ion o) the (o inant an( #econ(ary i(eologie# co e# near the en( o) the poe a# the Green *night #pare# Ga%ain an( #lo%ly re+eal# hi #el) to &e Lor( ,ertilak$ a# %ell

a# hi# plan to te#t the reputation# o) the true an( great 0hri#tian knight#. /n thi# #cene$ it i# the Green *night %ho #ho%# ercy in the agree ent o) hi# (eal &y only #lightly #triking Ga%ain1#

neck an( not chopping it o)) co pletely$ a# Ga%ain #o ignorantly (i( &e)ore. 3he Green *night #peci)ie# it a# a 9#trike: an( 9#troke$: an( Ga%ain coul( ha+e a(e the choice to )orego hi#

angui#h ha( he &een a true repre#entation o) a (e+out 0hri#tian. @o%e+er$ an( again connecting hi#torically a# 6letcher rea#on#$ 9it nee(# only a #light ac4uaintance %ith the hi#tory o) the pa#t 2$000 year# to #ho% that 0hri#tian# ha+e not al%ay# hee(e( e+en the lea#t a &iguou# o) in#truction#: ;1<. /n Ga%ain1# (e)en#e$ though$ he (oe# accept that he ha# not &een genuine in hi# character once Lor( ,ertilak ruin# Ga%ain1# counter #che e to #a+e hi# li)e &y thoroughly #hattering that ultra2righteou# co ple- Ga%ain (e+elope( in the court o) 0a elot. /n e))ect$ ,ertilak (oe# )orce Ga%ain to Kgo ye there)ore$ an( teach all nation#$1 another &i&lical co Matthe% 2J!1B$ to re(ee &rethren in 0a elot. 3he Green *night ight not &e co pletely a pro5ecte( i age o) 'agani# &ut he clearly hi #el) partly$ in hi# o%n an($

in($ an( i part the le##on to hi# 0hri#tian

ha# 4ualitie# inherent to allu#ion# o) 'agan prie#t#$ though uncertain o) &eing intentionally integrate( &y the 'earl 'oet. Ahether or not the 'earl 'oet %a# 'agan$ or #i ply o&#er+e( a orality ore authentic than it# religiou# #ucce##or$ re ain# to &e #een. @o%e+er$ the anony ity o#t a##ure(ly en5oye($ )or hi#Fher protection )ro no&le 0hri#tian retri&ution$

the 'earl 'oet

Schoket J #er+e# #Fhe 4uite %ell in ele+ating the #tatu# an( pre#ence o) 'agan a##ociation# in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight$ kno%ing %ell %ithout it$ a #%i)t re&uke coul( &e e-acte( )or challenging the a5or i(eology o) the location an( ti e perio(. 3he portrayal an( e &o(i ent o) 0hri#tian

the e# in Sir Ga%ain$ rather than the in(irect (eri#ion o) the Engli#h *ing through Arthur1# character$ al#o #ee # to ha+e &een (eli&erate on the 'oet1# part #o a# to a+oi( a((e( (anger )ro retri&ution. 3he 'earl 'oet (aringly call# into 4ue#tion the (eception o) )al#e piety a ong 0hri#tian#$ %hile curiou#ly #upplanting echoe# o) long la#ting pa#t tra(ition#.

Schoket B Aork# 0ite( 6letcher$ ". A. The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity. ,erkeley! 7ni+er#ity o) 0ali)ornia$ 1BBB. Google Scholar. Green&latt$ Stephen$ an( M. @. A&ra #. NSir Ga%ain an( the Green *night.N The orton "ntho#ogy of $ng#ish %iterat!re. Jth e(. Dol. A. Ne% 8ork! A.A. Norton$ 200E. 1E22 213. 'rint. Morgan$ Geral(. N3he Signi)icance o) the 'entangle Sy &oli# in NSir Ga%ain an( the Green

*nightNN The Modern %ang!age &eview I4.4 ;1BIB<! IEB2B0. 'ST(&. Ae&. 1J July 2012. Darner$ Gary ". 3he Mythic 6ore#t$ the Green Man an( the Spirit o) Nature! 3he "e2e ergence o) the Spirit o) Nature )ro 200E. 'rint. Aoo(#$ Aillia 6. NNature an( the /nner Man in Sir Ga%ain an( the Green *night.N The Ancient ti e# into Mo(ern Society. Ne% 8ork! Algora 'u&.$

Cha!cer &eview 3E.3 ;2002<! 20B22I. Pro)ect M*S$. Ae&. 20 July 2012.