Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Respect and Reputation Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
But of all those who dwelt there, of the British kings,
Arthur was always judged noblest, as I have heard tell.
(25 - 26)
Part of the narrator’s strategy in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is to make his telling of the story sound very authoritative by referring to elements of it as things he has either heard, or read in books. That way, he has all the weight of legendary stories to back him up. Instead of just saying that Arthur is very noble, he says that Arthur has a reputation for nobility, which means that it’s not just the author but everyone that thinks so.
"If you are as courageous as everyone says,
You will graciously grant me the game that I ask for
(272 - 274)
This is the Green Knight’s first reference to Arthur’s knights’ reputation for great bravery. He will use these references to great effect to goad the knights into playing his game, for if they refuse, they risk throwing that reputation in doubt.
"What, is this Arthur’s house?" said the man then,
"That everyone talks of in so many kingdoms?
Where are now your arrogance and your victories,
Your fierceness and wrath and your great speeches?
Now the revelry and repute of the Round Table
Are overthrown with a word from one man’s mouth,
For you all cower in fear before a blow has been struck!"
(309 - 315)
With this speech, the Green Knight goads Arthur’s court into playing his game or risk having their reputation for bravery besmirched. Yet he also reminds his audience of the fragility of a reputation if it can, in truth, be "overthrown with a word from one man’s mouth." Although what the Green Knight is referring to here is the way his challenge threatens their reputation, we can’t help but think of the way that other words from men’s mouths - for example, rumors - can have the same effect.