Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
How we cite our quotes:
Queen Guenevere [sat] gaily dressed and placed in the middle,
Seated on the upper level, adorned all about;
Fine silk surrounding her, a canopy overhead
Of costly French fabric, silk carpets underfoot
That were embroidered and studded with the finest gems
That money could buy at the highest price
The loveliest to see
Glanced round with eyes blue-grey;
That he had had seen a fairer one
Truly could no man say.
(74 - 84)
The richness of Arthur’s court and the beauty of his queen both attest to his power and influence. In this passage, Guenevere plays the role of Arthur’s possession just as much as the gems and fine silk carpets and canopies that surround her.
. . . . . There bursts in at the hall door a terrible figure,
In his stature the very tallest on earth.
From the waist to the neck so thick-set and square,
And his loins and his limbs so massive and long,
In truth half a giant I believe he was,
But anyway of all men I judge him to be the largest,
And the most attractive of his size who could sit on a horse.
For while in back and chest his body was forbidding,
Both his belly and waist were becomingly trim,
And every part of his body equally elegant
His hue astounded them,
Set in his looks so keen;
For boldly he rode in,
Completely emerald green.
(136 - 150)
The Green Knight is both monstrous and beautiful: his great size makes him something of a giant, creatures which had fearsome reputations in medieval romances. Besides that, he’s completely green! But on the other hand, his body is elegant, and he appears to be in great shape if his large chest and back paired with a trim waist are any indication.
And all arrayed in green that man and his clothes:
A straight close-fitting coat that clung to his body,
A pleasant mantle over that, adorned within
With plain trimmed fur, the facing made bright
With gay shining ermine, and his hood of the same
Thrown back from his hair and laid over his shoulders.
Neat tightly-drawn stockings coloured to match
Clinging to his calf, and shining spurs below
Of bright gold, over embroidered and richly striped silk.
(151 - 159)
The Green Knight’s clothing indicates that he is very wealthy: fur, particularly ermine, was a very expensive material and embroidered, striped silk would have been costly and time-consuming to make. The lines following these go on to detail the embroidery, bead and metalwork of the Knight’s tack and saddle, all of which indicate a similar degree of wealth and time investment.