Sir Gawain and the Green Knight | Study Guide

Pearl Poet

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight | Fytte the First, Stanzas 3–6 | Summary



Fytte the First, Stanza 3

At Christmastime, Arthur is feasting in his home in Camelot; the feast lasts for 15 days. Knights, lords, and ladies all join for a joyful celebration.

Fytte the First, Stanza 4

New Year's comes and the celebration continues. The court members exchange handsel, New Year's gifts given for good luck. Queen Guinevere sits on the throne, dressed in expensive garments.

Fytte the First, Stanza 5

The feast is set, but Arthur won't eat until everyone's been served. He's full of energy. Before he eats, Arthur wants some adventure—he wants someone to tell him a marvelous story, or a knight to challenge him to a joust. This is Arthur's custom at every feast.

Fytte the First, Stanza 6

Gawain and Agravain, two knights of the court, sit beside Guinevere. The first course comes to the table with a musical fanfare, and many courses follow this one. Every two feasters have 12 dishes between them.


Christmas, traditionally a religious season of celebration and renewal, figures prominently in the narrative. The festive spirit allows the Green Knight, later, to disguise his challenge as a game.

In Fytte the First, Stanza 3, the narrator praises the characters, using superlatives and exaggeration. Arthur's knights are "the most famous knights save only Christ." The court's ladies are "the loveliest ladies that ever had life." Arthur is "the proudest of kings." This superlative tone is typical of medieval romances, which include superhuman elements and characters that are cast in an otherworldly light—both humans and archetypes of heroes.

The New Year marks renewal and redemption: "fresh and but newly come." It is a time of starting over and doing penance for past misdeeds. This significance will be meaningful to Gawain's quest.

In Fytte the First, Stanza 4, the reader begins to see the importance of colors and physical materials with the description of Guinevere. Her jewels are described with praise similar to the exaggeration of the previous stanza: "the best gems that money could buy." She wears silk, signaling her wealth and status in Arthur's court.

Both the narrator and Gawain are fascinated by female beauty, considering it an enigma and a damaging power. Guinevere doesn't do much in the poem, but she's an important character nonetheless. As the reader and Gawain learn toward the end of his quest, the Green Knight's challenge is designed in part to terrify the powerful queen.

Other legends of Arthur reference his habit of wanting entertainment at his feasts. Despite his status, he can be childlike, reckless, and restless because of his youth and adventurous personality: "his young blood and his wild brain." He's willing to joust "to incur peril, to risk life against life," simply for entertainment. The narrator doesn't speak directly about Arthur's flaws—Arthur's status is high enough for the narrator to offer only praise. But in Fytte the First, Stanza 5, the narrator offers evidence to indicate that the court of Camelot is an imperfect place, with an imperfect leader.

The atmosphere of opulence and luxury continues with music and the ceremonial revealing of courses. In Fytte the First, Stanza 6, Gawain is introduced for the first time, in a position of honor beside Guinevere. He's called "the good Gawain," showing readers whose side they should be on.

The narrator frequently admits he couldn't describe elements of the story if he tried; the quantity and quality of the food, for example. This tendency to gloss over descriptive details, in addition to the many rich details provided, gives the poem the quality of a fairy tale or extraordinary adventure beyond human description.

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