[ENG 211] - Midterm Exam Guide - Everything you need to know! (35 pages long)

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ENG 211
MIDTERM EXAM
STUDY GUIDE
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SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT
Date of Composition: 1375-1400 (late 14th century)
Genre: Medieval Romance
Romance is a term relating to the linguistic origins of the poem (any language derived
from Latin)
Originally comes from France
Historical Background:
1066- Battle of Hastings
o English are defeated by the Normans from France
o French becomes the language of choice in the court. English is considered a
barbaric language
Considered the most important medieval romance in English literature because it contains all
three types of medieval romances
Celtic romance: deals with fate, games, magic, and festivals
Arthurian romance: takes place in the court of King Arthur (Camelot), loyalty (trawpe),
chivalry (caritas), the cult of courtly love (cupiditas), oral contracts (covenants)
Christian romance: morality, moral behavior, love of God, sin, repentance
Author is unknown
Manuscript contain Sir Gawain and the Green Knight also contains three other poems:
Patience, Cleanliness, and ____. These three poems are all religious in nature
Written in Northwest Midlands Middle English
o At the time, this was the most conservative, both politically and culturally, part of
England
Author was most likely a priest attached to an aristocratic household
o Writer is very familiar with the customs of the aristocratic classes
o Other three poems are highly religious in nature
Poetic Style: Alliterative Poetry
Repetition of the same sound at the beginning of stressed syllables
o Basis of poetic structure in the medieval period
Same number of stressed syllables per line
Differing number of syllables per line
Differing lengths of stanzas
End rhyme ababa in bob and wheel
Final five lines of each stanza is known as the bob and wheel. The bob is the first short
line and contains one or two stressed syllable. The wheel, the next four lines, contains
three stressed syllables per line
Historical Background
Feudalism
Peasant’s Revolt of 1381- non-aristocrats are unhappy with the bloodline inheritance
structure of feudalism. It was suppressed, but it was yet another indication that things
historically were starting to move in another direction
FITT I
Historical Allusions
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Around 1100 BCE, there may or may not have been the Trojan War. The Greeks
ultimately defeat the Trojans. Aenaeus, one of the princes, flees Troy and sails around the
Mediterranean and eventually lands in Italy where he finds the Roman Empire
On of Aenaeus descencants, Brutus goes over to Britain. This suggests that the British are
related to the Romans and the Trojans
All of this is compiled in the first historical manuscript to be preserved in Britain. This
was written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in 1150 (Historia Regnum)
o Like an epic, this is trying to show the background of the people
The Green Knight
The color green in the poem can have both natural and supernatural meanings to it
Salvage Man
o In English folklore, the green man is a supernatural figure. He is a figure of either
good or bad fortune.
Holds an ax in one hand and a branch of holly in the other in the poem
Coming in Irish Celtic romances
Idea of Games
Beheading Game
o The challenge isn’t accepted until it offends the knights of the round table
Green Knight begins my making fun of the knights
o Is this a moral test for the knights of the round table?
o Sir Gawain is about to set out on a quest (both physical and/or moral/religious in
character)
o Familial obligation between Sir Gawain and King Arthur; moral obligation
o Patriarchal structure is still reminiscent
Why does the king allow Sir Gawain to go up against the Green Knight?
Anyone who is a knight is aristocratic by definition
Should we believe that Sir Gawain is the feeblest?
o Could be a strategic move on the part of Sir Gawain not to come up and say I’m
the best and the greatest because if he’s the weakest and he’s good, that makes the
rest of the knights look good
o A hero should be humble. Part of the code of chivalry is being respectful to your
social superiors.
o Perhaps this is a way to prove himself worthy of being at the round table
o Maybe he said that to belittle the strength of the Green Knight
Gender in the Poem
Women are described as wonderful. What would describe women as wonderful?
Men are described as chivalrous and courteous
o Men are always saving women because they cannot save themselves
Status of women in this poem is analogous to women in Beowulf
Could the challenge be seen as a parallel to David and Goliath?
David and Goliath was a story in the Bible. Goliath a big man, and David was a small
man. Everyone thinks David is going to lose, but he takes a slingshot and blinds Goliath,
ultimately winning the battle.
Resurrection imagery with Green Knight
FITT II
Shift in tenses from past to present
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