ENGLISH 1022E October 28 , 2010
ENGLISH – Lecture 14
C. Stephen Jaeger, the Origin of Manners
c. 939-1210 = manners emerge in western Europe
SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT… PART ONE
o Green Knight – vegetation god
o “hooves of his horse spark gold” and his attire has gold
o Colours of the Winter Solstice, like Christmas trees, to remind us that spring will come again and
things will be bright. Residue of the things from the poem still present today.
o Christian writers in Middle Ages = death, corpses turned green prior to embalming. Green is also
associated with supernatural (Leprechauns), St. Patrick’s Day is all green. Green was also
associated with the devil, the devil’s green tail.
o The Green Knight = green, supernatural, larger than life, comes from the North. Wanted
clarification of what he stands for. He does not wear any armour, meaning he doesn’t come to
make war or fight, presumably peaceful. He carries with him two emblematic adjuncts.
o Symbol: suggests many meanings
o Emblem + Allegory: has only one meaning relating to the story and character. This is what the
Green Knight brings with him.
Holly Branch: he explains it’s an emblem of peace
Axe: razor-sharp, huge, terrifying instrument of destruction. Not like a Christian sword
which is shaped like a cross.
o Medieval Hierarchy… God at the beginning, then royalty, then church, then Knights, the nobles,
then peasants, then artists and beggars.
o Line 309 – an insult delivered to King Arthur, calling him ineffectual leader, a poor Christian.
Calling the Knights a bunch of weak, ineffectual men. The Round table must show these
accusations are false, because they must be courteous to this man, they must live up to their
Christian Knight name. Hospitality is fluent through the story. Chivalry code.
o 317… Hubris, pride that comes before the fall. Arthur’s pride. Then anger shows. “As a bad
man.” Line 341-360, Sir Gawain steps forward against the Green Knight’s challenge, completely
calm, with humility, with extreme courtesy, the complete opposite of King Arthur. “I am the