J. J. Anderson
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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The beautiful lie
in Language and imagination in the Gawain-poems
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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a record of, and tribute to, the beauties and pleasures of chivalric life. Gawain tells the story of a fearsome green-skinned knight who rides into King Arthur's court, and issues a challenge: will one of them strike a blow at him with his axe, and agree to receive a return blow in a year's time? Chivalry is presented throughout as offering an attractive front to the world with nothing solid underpinning it. In life as well as in literature, chivalry emphasises the importance of polite and honourable behaviour and speech, lavish display, and other external manifestations. The confessions in the last part of the poem point to a fundamental difference between the secular chivalric and the Christian ethical systems. The games and the glamour end in Morgan, and the code of honour leaves Gawain, the pearl of knights, a broken man.

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