sirgawain1 - context T he alliterative poem Sir Gawain and...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–3. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
context T he alliterative poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, likely written in the mid to late fourteenth century, survives in a late-fourteenth-century manuscript with three other poems—Pearl, Purity, and Patience—by the same author. Very little is known about the author of these poems, but most scholars believe him to have been a university-trained clerk or the official of a provincial estate (this SparkNote refers to him as the “Pearl-poet” or the “Gawain-poet”). Though it cannot be said with certainty that one person wrote all four poems, some shared characteristics point toward common authorship and also suggest that the Gawain-poet may have written another poem, called St. Erkenwald, that exists in a separate manuscript. All the poems except Sir Gawain and the Green Knight deal with overtly Christian subject matter, and it remains unclear why Sir Gawain, an Arthurian romance, was included in an otherwise religious manuscript. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written in a dialect of Middle English that links it with Britain’s Northwest Midlands, probably the county of Cheshire or Lancashire. The English provinces of the late fourteenth century, although they did not have London’s economic, political, and artistic centrality, were not necessarily less culturally active than London, where Geoffrey Chaucer and William Langland were writing at the time. In fact, the works of the Gawain- poet belong to a type of literature traditionally known as the Alliterative Revival, usually associated with northern England. Contrary to what the name of the movement suggests, the alliterative meter of Old English had not actually disappeared and therefore did not need reviving. Nevertheless, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight exists as a testament that the style continued well into the fourteenth century, if not in London, then in the provinces. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ’s adapted Old English meter tends to connect the two halves of each poetic line through alliteration, or repetition of consonants. The poem also uses rhyme to structure its stanzas, and each group of long alliterative lines concludes with a word or phrase containing two syllables and a quatrain—known together as the “bob and wheel.” The phrase “bob and wheel” derives from a technique used when spinning cloth—the bobs and wheels in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight help to spin the plot and narrative together in intricate ways. They provide commentaries on what has just happened, create or fulfill moments of suspense, and serve as transitions to the next scene or idea. Told in four “fitts,” or parts, the poem weaves together at least three separate narrative strings commonly found in medieval folklore and romance. The first plot, the beheading game, appears in ancient folklore and may derive from
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
pagan myths related to the agricultural cycles of planting and harvesting crops. The second and third plots concern the exchange of winnings and the hero’s temptation; both of these plots derive from medieval romances and
Background image of page 2
Image of page 3
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 02/12/2011 for the course PSYCH V89.0032 taught by Professor Uleman during the Spring '08 term at NYU.

Page1 / 13

sirgawain1 - context T he alliterative poem Sir Gawain and...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 3. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online