Literature Study GuidesSir Gawain And The Green KnightFytte The Third Stanzas 25 29 Summary

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight | Study Guide

Pearl Poet

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight | Fytte the Third, Stanzas 25–29 | Summary

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Summary

Fytte the Third, Stanza 25

Gawain is having nightmares about his impending duel with the Green Knight. He's glad to see the Lady of Hautdesert when he wakes. They're happy to spend time talking. But without Mary watching over him, Gawain would be perilously tempted.

Fytte the Third, Stanza 26

Gawain, his anxiety heightened by the prospect of the duel, knows he needs to either accept the Lady of Hautdesert's advances or refuse her rudely. His courtesy is important to him, and he doesn't want to sin or betray his host. So he resists her advances. The Lady of Hautdesert is offended. She asks Gawain if he loves someone else. Gawain says he doesn't and never will.

Fytte the Third, Stanza 27

The Lady of Hautdesert feels even worse when Gawain says he doesn't love anyone else. She kisses him goodbye, resigned. She requests a gift to remember him by—perhaps his glove. Gawain agrees she deserves a gift but doesn't see the point in exchanging "love-tokens." He also didn't bring many valuables with him. The lady says she'll give him a gift anyway.

Fytte the Third, Stanza 28

The Lady of Hautdesert offers him an expensive ring in red and gold. Gawain politely refuses; he has nothing to give her, and he'll take nothing. The lady offers to give him something less expensive, so he won't feel as obligated. She removes a green silk lace (a belt worn around the waist; called a girdle in some translations), ornamented in gold, from around her sides. Gawain reiterates his gratitude to her but says he still won't take a gift.

Fytte the Third, Stanza 29

The Lady of Hautdesert agrees the green lace seems like a simple gift. Gawain just can't see its benefits. If he wears it wrapped around him, she says, "no warrior under heaven" can wound or kill him. Gawain realizes a gift like this will protect him in his upcoming ordeal with the Green Knight. He accepts the gift. The lady has a final request: Gawain shouldn't tell Bertilak or anyone else about the present. He agrees to this, too, although it means that he cannot faithfully play Bertilak's game. She kisses him three times.

Analysis

If the Lady of Hautdesert knows why Gawain is so sad and anxious in Fytte the Third, Stanza 25, she doesn't mention it. But it's clear Gawain is even gladder to see her than he ordinarily would be, because her looks and their conversation take his mind off the Green Knight. The narrator knows what danger he is in, and implores the Blessed Mother to think of "her knight" and keep Gawain from succumbing to sexual sin.

Gawain's concern for morality and honesty has, for the moment, outweighed any anxiety over being called "a clown." At the same time, the Lady of Hautdesert truly sounds like she's wounded and offended, and Gawain wants to assure her it's not her—he still loves and respects her.

At the beginning of Fytte the Third, Stanza 27, the Lady of Hautdesert appears to have given up. She's moping and counting on Gawain to feel obligated to cheer her. She's not even asking for an affair anymore; simply a gift. But Gawain has had enough. He reminds her he has business to take care of, and he's in a foreign and "uncouth" land. He doesn't have time for gifts and frivolity; he's on a mission. By offering him a gift anyway, the lady shows she hasn't given up yet.

Ordinarily, the red and gold ring the Lady of Hautdesert offers Gawain in Fytte the Third, Stanza 28 would be a gift Gawain would prize: red and gold are the colors on Gawain's shield, and these colors symbolize Gawain's decoration as a man of honor, and all the virtues he has to live up to. When he refuses the ring, she offers him the lace—an unambiguously sexual gift. It's green silk with gold (the color of the Green Knight), and functionally, it's more underwear than decoration.

Gawain has promised himself and the lady that he will never take a gift, but he will break his promise in Fytte the Third, Stanza 29: like the fox, he's greedy for survival above all else.

Tempting Gawain with love and pride didn't work, so the Lady of Hautdesert tempts him with the gift of survival in Fytte the Third, Stanza 29. This stanza recalls the biblical Adam and Eve: Eve tempted Adam to sin by promising the gift of knowledge. Gawain, who knows the Bible well, will compare himself to Adam later in the poem.

The promise that her lace will magically keep him from being "slain by any device in the world" seems preposterous, but no more so than the strange adventures Gawain has already had. He clearly wants to believe the Lady of Hautdesert's promise is true; she's trying to protect him.

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