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Sir Gawain and the Reflections on the Times
It is the 1300's in medieval Europe, Christianity and the church reign supreme and Knights roam the country side. There are stories of war and heroes, none more famous than King Author and his court. These tales of marvelous adventures were more than just stories for entertainment, they also taught the ideal standard of a person. They taught that one should be brave, loyal, to serve God and the king, this is what chivalry was based on and these were its times. In this story we are continually shown this and the human aspects in Sir Gawain. In him we see courage and chivalry typical from stories of this time. But the author also strays from the norm and gives Sir Gawain real emotion. He gives him fear; he tempts him he makes him human. This combined with the unique style of writing make this a masterpiece.
In a more in depth look at how this reflects upon the time we need to break down how the times were a changing. The Renaissance was beginning and people were starting to look more at the world around them for answers than to God. On the way to understanding our world more people started to explore human emotion more as well. The idea of humanism is reflected in the art and literature of this time it is also visible in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In most stories like this the hero is untouchable by weakness and never faltered to do the right thing. In this selection we see one of the first human heroes. I say human heroes not because that he was a human but because he gives Gawain human feelings.
The best depiction of Gawain having and dealing with human emotions is in his dealings with the Lord's wife. Before this period we see the typical aspects of a tale of this time. We saw in the beginning of the story the courage of the Green Knight. He comes in mocking the greatest knights ever and takes a bow from an axe without blinking. This is the bravery which Sir Gawain must live up to through out the story. We also see the stereotypical chivalry when Sir Gawain steps into the contest for Arthur, and as Sir Gawain keeps his promise to the Green knight so his and the kingdoms honor are not hurt. Back to the wife, it is in this setting we see Gawain become human. He is put in a battle not of strength but of morality. Here is a beautiful woman throwing herself at him and he must resist, and in resisting he must show respect to her. This is a clear showing of Renaissance thinking, and of how future writing would be. We also see the first show of weakness in when he is tempted with the belt. By taking the belt to save his life he breaks the promise he made. This breaks away from traditional tales because we actually see a knight faltering under human pressures, which makes him more human and takes the story to a new level. As humans we are all faced with temptations that will benefit us. And while in previous times the author wouldn't add something like that because stories were supposed to show how you should act. In a more humanistic world authors strove to express humanism in their works.
We see the last act of humanism by Sir Gawain when he flinches before he is struck. We as humans never want to die and this is a prime example, he has a belt that will protect him but still he fears for his life. There is nothing more human than that to fear, to fear is to be human. It shows that Gawain who has proved to be virtuous and brave is just a man underneath. That even though he has been in battle and war he fears death, and it is in this moment this becomes a Renaissance piece. Because he has had all his chivalry and bravery stripped of him and is nothing more than a man.
What else, well let's paraphrase. The time the late 1300's, the Dark Ages are ending and the Renaissance is begging. Europe is still in the feudal age and is ruled by monarchies. This new age called the Renaissance brought about many changes in thinking and writing. While most medieval writings strove to teach about morals and chivalry most Renaissance writings were about the human trails and emotions. We see Gawain go from this stereotypical knight who is perfect to a true human through his journey, where he is tested with human temptations. I got nothing else to say but I'm lacking words, so I'm going to stretch this out more. I honestly didn't like this piece mainly because of the way it was written. I'm sure the bob and wheel was cool back in the day but I had trouble following it. I simply chose it because I enjoy the romances and heroic stories of valor triumphing. It is good to see the evolution in writing that this story brought. It took a simple idea and took it to that next level by bringing in the human elements and not just the heroic ones. I also believe this helped show other writers of this time the need to introduce human aspects into their stories.
And that's it. I'm a few words short but I've said all I can. I've been pretty repetitive but hey I'm only human.