Sir Gawain and the Green Knight | Study Guide

Pearl Poet

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight | Fytte the Third, Stanzas 3–7 | Summary

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Summary

Fytte the Third, Stanza 3

Gawain is resting but awake in the daylight as the other men hunt. The Lady of Hautdesert enters his room. Gawain, shy, pretends to be sleeping. The lady stays by his bedside "surprisingly long," and Gawain worries about what her presence means. Finally, he pretends to wake and be surprised. He crosses himself for protection.

Fytte the Third, Stanza 4

The Lady of Hautdesert jokes about Gawain being a "careless sleeper." Gawain laughs as well. He asks if she'll let him get up and get dressed so they can talk. The lady says she won't let him out of bed; she'll tie him up if she has to.

The lady has heard what an honorable and courteous knight Gawain is. Now that he's finally arrived, she doesn't plan to let him get away. She gives him permission to do whatever he likes with her.

Fytte the Third, Stanza 5

Gawain says he's flattered and unworthy of her praise. He'll do what he can to please her "in speech or in service." The Lady of Hautdesert continues to praise him, saying she knows ladies who would give up all their treasure to have the time with him she does. Gawain can't help but be pleased.

Fytte the Third, Stanza 6

Gawain admits people tend to judge others' deeds largely from stories they've heard and not from truth. Her praise is proof of her own generous heart, not his accomplishments. The Lady of Hautdesert insists she'd still choose Gawain if she were given her pick of all the lords in the world.

They talk until past mid-morning. The lady remains affectionate; Gawain stays courteous but distant. She thinks to herself that Gawain resists showing love "because of the danger that he seeks .../the blow that may slay him." She asks to leave for the day.

Fytte the Third, Stanza 7

As the Lady of Hautdesert turns to leave, she says sharply to Gawain that he can't be who he says he is. Gawain is startled and asks why. She retorts that a man as good as she thought Gawain was wouldn't spend all day with her without even kissing her. Gawain says he wants to please her, and they exchange a chaste kiss. Later, Gawain goes to Mass and enjoys the evening meal with both the lady of the house and the older woman.

Analysis

Even though Gawain has Bertilak's explicit permission to spend time with his wife, he's still afraid to appear improper or lustful; he's nervous, as he should be. The Lady of Hautdesert is hunting him just the way her husband and his men are hunting the deer. Gawain is right to wonder "what this affair might mean or amount to"—Bertilak and his wife are withholding a lot of information from him, and he's part of their game.

Even though the Lady of Hautdesert seem surprisingly flirtatious and aggressive in Fytte the Third, Stanza 4, Gawain can't throw her out or he would risk his reputation for courtesy—he's a guest, she's a woman, and he has to be polite. He knows he's being invited to engage in courtly love.

Gawain, dignified but human, is struggling with lust. He emphasizes in Fytte the Third, Stanza 5 that he'll do anything he can for the lady "in speech or in service," but not in physical affection. After all, she's the mistress of the house, and he does hold her in high regard. Because Gawain is human, he's also susceptible to the Lady of Hautdesert's flattery. She's laying it on thick, appealing to his skill in speech ("dainty words"), his courtesy, and the comfort his presence provides. She paints him as the ideal knight and lover.

Gawain refers in Fytte the Third, Stanza 6 to his different identities—the perfect knight he is in the stories, and the flawed human he's secretly afraid he really is. He realizes that the idea of Gawain the perfect courteous knight is different from the human Gawain. But he's wearing the pentangle, and he has to live up to the virtues it represents.

When the Lady of Hautdesert hints at "the blow that may slay him," she may be indicating only that she knows about his plan to duel with the Green Knight. She senses that Gawain is more occupied with his impending death than with romance. This knowledge won't stop her from continuing her own quest for another two days.

Gawain is justifiably surprised by the lady's sudden harshness in Fytte the Third, Stanza 7. From his point of view, he's done everything right: he's been kind and civil to his female companion and still kept enough distance to respect Bertilak, his host. The Lady of Hautdesert's "sharp words" right before she leaves are meant to throw Gawain off and keep him guessing. She has offered him his love, and courtesy doesn't allow him to reject her; a courtly lover serves his lady at all costs, to the point of worship. But the lady says she's feeling hurt and rejected (whether or not she does feel this way). She knows Gawain, who wants to protect his reputation and be a decent man, will feel dejected about making her feel this way.

The mention of "the other and the younger" toward the end of the stanza implies that Morgan le Fay, the older woman mentioned in Fytte the Second, is still in the castle and spending time with Gawain.

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