Term Paper: Beowulf Roland Sir Gawain Arthur Machiavelli

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Beowulf, Roland, Sir Gawain, Arthur, Machiavelli

The aspects of morality as demonstrated by Sir Gawain

Chivalry refers to the moral code that was an intrinsic part of the world of Sir Gawain and King Arthur's court. Chivalric ethics and their moral code also plays an essential part in showing the difference between the higher values of a civilized Christian world as opposed to the " fallen" natural world. In the poetic narrative of the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight we are presented with the efforts to maintain these higher moral values, as exemplified in the Chivalric code, through the test that Gawain has to undergo. This moral code is seen in the way that Sir Gawain responds to the various moral tests the he is exposed to.

The moral values that Gawain is meant to represent in the poem can be seen in the symbols on Gawain's shield. "Each of the five points of the heraldic pentangle on Gawain's shield itself comprises a pentad of virtues or conditions of virtue." (Allen 182)

This refers to the five knightly virtues; namely, friendship, generosity, chastity, courtesy, and piety.

One of the essential aspects of the poem in terms of morality is that the tests that Gawain undergoes are essentially meant to show that the chivalric values that he represents are real and not merely an appearance of virtue and morality. In other words they are tested against the real world of nature. Furthermore the moral trials that he has to endure are intended to show the strengths, and weaknesses, of his values as opposed to the world of nature and desire. This can be seen in the way that Gawain has to face up to the threat of his own possible death. The bravery that he shows in facing the Green Knight proves the enduring value of his moral beliefs. On the other hand the fact that he fears death also shows that he fails in terms of moral perfection to a certain extent.

The most important test that Gawain faces however is the less obvious attempt to seduce him by Bertilak's wife. In his search to meet with the Green Knight to fulfill his vow ands obligation to encounter the Knight, Gawain stays at Bertilak's castle. The mysteries Bertilak makes a deal with Gawain that he will give Gawain the fruits of his hunt each day in exchange for what Gawain receives during that day. While her husband is away hunting, Bertilak's wife attempts to seduce Gawain. This is the real moral test that Gawain has to endure. The fact that the he refuses her advance on three occasions is proof of the moral virtue and high standards that he has achieved.

This test is also complex on a number of levels. Besides the obvious moral value in refusing to take advantage of a host's wife while he is away, Gawain is actually transgressing another chivalric value. This refers to the fact that in terms of chivalric ethics one is bound to honor the requests of one's hostess. On the other had he cannot dishonor the trust that his host has placed in him.

The above also points to the various links that the trial of Gawain has to Christian moral themes and values. Some critics have suggested that the location of Bertilak's castle can be interpreted as symbolizing paradise and Lady Bertilak as Eve or the temptress. The important aspect in terms of morality however is that Gawain faces this temptation and asserts his faith in God and moral virtue. In this moral battle he finds strength in various image and symbols, such as the Virgin Mary on his shield.

While he succeeds in refusing the advances of Lady Bertilak Gawain is not entirely successful in terms of moral virtue and perfection. On the third day, while he has rejected all her advances, Bertilak's wife offers Gawain a green girdle that she wears around her waist.

She tells Gawain that the girdle has the power or makes its wearer immune to death.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Beowulf Roland Sir Gawain Arthur Machiavelli.  (2007, March 7).  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/beowulf-roland-sir-gawain-arthur-machiavelli/578758

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"Beowulf Roland Sir Gawain Arthur Machiavelli."  7 March 2007.  Web.  25 May 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/beowulf-roland-sir-gawain-arthur-machiavelli/578758>.

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"Beowulf Roland Sir Gawain Arthur Machiavelli."  Essaytown.com.  March 7, 2007.  Accessed May 25, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/beowulf-roland-sir-gawain-arthur-machiavelli/578758.