Prof. G. Steinberg
Response Paper: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,
Like Piers Plowman, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight explores
the social ills of late 14th-century England, but unlike Piers Plowman,
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is much more focused on the aristocracy and
the royal court (and it's much more subtle too). So, above all other
questions, we will be asking ourselves again and again what the Gawain-poet
sees as the chief problem(s) of his day.
Choose one of the following areas as the focus of your response paper:
- Why does Sir Gawain and the Green Knight begin by referring to
Troy? What does the story in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
have to do with the story of Troy? How are the people at Arthur's court
like the characters in the story of Troy? How is the Green Knight like
those characters? How is the plot of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
like the plot of the story of Troy? How is the story of Arthur's court
- Why does the Green Knight come to challenge the court? How
is he characterized? Why is he green? Is he a "good guy" or a "bad
guy"? What exactly is his proposition for Arthur's court? What has
he come to do? What challenge does he pose for Arthur's court?
- How does Arthur's court react to the Green Knight's challenge?
Why does it react that way? What do we learn about the court's values
from its reaction to the Green Knight? Does the court react the way it
should have reacted?
- How is Gawain portrayed? Gawain is obviously supposed to be
a "good guy." In what way(s) is he good? Is he perfect? What
do we learn about the court's values from the depiction of Gawain? How
does Gawain compare to the Green Knight? How does Gawain find his way to
the Green Chapel? In the end, what quality of Gawain helps him most to
find his way?
Click here to go to the syllabus.