Study Guide

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Part 4, Lines 2212 - 2477

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Part 4, Lines 2212 - 2477

  • Gawain shouts at the top of his lungs that he's ready and waiting. The Green Knight better show up, because it's now or never.
  • The Green Knight tells Gawain to hold on for a few more minutes.
  • Gawain continues to hear loud sounds, like a large blade being sharpened.
  • The Green Knight appears carrying an enormous new Danish axe.
  • The Hulk-like knight is as green as ever, including all of this clothing.
  • The Green Knight commends Gawain for keeping their appointment. He restates the terms of their agreement, says that Gawain can't put up any kind of fight or complain, and then asks Gawain to remove his helmet.
  • Gawain guarantees that he won't complain, then he bares his neck, waiting for the axe to fall.
  • As the Green Knight picks up the axe and swings with all his might, Gawain flinches. The green giant stops mid-swing to chew out Gawain, saying that he never flinched or trembled when Gawain hacked his head off. What gives? Gawain must be a coward.
  • The Green Knight declares that he's definitely a better man than Gawain.
  • Gawain promises not to flinch again, but also points out that once his head is hacked off, he won't be able to put it back on again.
  • The Green Knight raises his axe again and swings… and stops again. Gawain hasn't moved a muscle, and the green man says he's glad to see that Gawain isn't being a wimp.
  • Gawain tells him to get on with it already.
  • The Green Knight raises the axe a third time and brings it down on Gawain's bare neck.
  • But the sharp blade just barely cuts through Gawain's skin. He's bleeding, but his head is still on his shoulders. Whew!
  • Gawain grabs his helmet, his shield, and his sword. He declares that he withstood the Green Knight's attack and met the terms of their agreement. Now he'll defend himself if the Green Knight tries to strike again.
  • The Green Knight keeps his distance and admires Gawain's bravery.
  • He explains that he didn't strike Gawain the first two times because, as per their agreement, Gawain honorably turned over all of his day's winnings to him on the first two nights. He declares that true men return what they owe and have nothing to fear.
  • The third blow was delivered because Gawain failed to turn over the green girdle as one of the things he won on the third day.
  • Confused yet? Well, the Green Knight is actually the lord of the castle.
  • He explains that he knows all about Gawain's kissing and flirting with his wife. Why? Because he planned it all.
  • He sent his wife to tempt Gawain, and Gawain passed the test. He's the greatest of all knights.
  • But Gawain didn't pass with an A+. He failed a little when he didn't turn over the green girdle. But, he forgives Gawain since the act was committed for self-preservation, and not out of lust or greed.
  • Gawain feels ashamed and blushes. He takes off the green girdle and returns it.
  • He declares that fear led him to be false and deceitful. He knows that his good name is damaged, but he would like to regain the Green Knight's trust.
  • The Green Knight, however, laughs and says that Gawain is absolved. He's repented and learned his lesson. He even gives Gawain the green girdle as a gift.
  • The Green Knight invites Gawain to celebrate the New Year with him and his wife, back at the castle.
  • Gawain turns him down, but sends his regard to the beautiful lady, saying that she beguiled him with her kiss. He lists some great and wise men who were tricked by women: Solomon, Samson, David, and Adam. And what lesson has Gawain learned? To love women, but not to trust them. Hmm.
  • Gawain says that he'll keep the green girdle as a reminder of his weaknesses, and how easily he was tempted. He'll use it to keep him humble.
  • Before they part, Gawain asks for the Green Knight's true name.
  • The Green Knight says that he's Bertilak de Hautdesert.
  • He gets his powers from Morgan le Fay, a sorceress who lives in his house.
  • Morgan sent the Green Knight to Camelot to find out if the Knights of the Round Table could really live up to their reputation. She also wanted to frighten Queen Guinevere to death, with that whole stunt of the Green Knight picking up his own head.
  • The Green Knight tells Gawain that Morgan is the old woman at his castle. She's also Arthur's half-sister, and therefore Gawain's aunt.
  • He asks Gawain again to come celebrate at the castle with his aunt, but Gawain again refuses.
  • They part as friends, and Gawain rushes off back to King Arthur's court.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Part 4, Lines 2212 - 2477 Study Group

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