Sir Gawain and the Green Knight | Study Guide

Pearl Poet

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight | Fytte the Third, Stanzas 8–11 | Summary

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Summary

Fytte the Third, Stanza 8

Bertilak piles the many deer and does that he's slain into a quarry, or heap of game. He and his men cut the deer piece by piece to extract the meat.

Fytte the Third, Stanza 9

Bertilak's men continue cutting the deer. They feed the hounds portions of the deer meat and return triumphantly to the castle. Gawain is waiting by the fire to greet Bertilak.

Fytte the Third, Stanza 10

The lords and ladies of the castle gather together. Gawain sees the spoils of the hunt; he's pleased, saying it's the best store he's seen in seven winters. He keeps up his end of the bargain by giving Bertilak a courteous kiss, the same type of kiss he received from the Lady of Hautdesert. Bertilak asks Gawain how he won this favor, but Gawain counters that wasn't part of the agreement—he agreed only to share his winnings with Bertilak, not tell him how he'd achieved them. The men laugh and depart for dinner.

Fytte the Third, Stanza 11

Over drinks, Gawain and Bertilak agree to the same bargain the next day. The whole court witnesses this agreement. The next morning, Bertilak awakes early and eagerly for the hunt.

Analysis

Fytte the Third, Stanza 8 is the first of two descriptions of serving the day's game (or hunted animal), and it's detailed to the point of brutality. Every piece of the deer's body is named and cut. The visceral description is meant to show the relationship between the hunter and the hunted—the one in control can do as he likes, physically, to the animal he's captured. The use of violence—sharp knives and verbs like split and severed—reinforces the danger of the hunt.

The word game has two meanings in the poem. Game in hunting refers to the animal being hunted. Then there's a game as an entertainment or challenge, such as the games proposed by the Green Knight and Bertilak.

The deer carcasses have been tossed into the trees for the crows and fed to the hounds. The destruction recalls the death Gawain fears at the hands of the Green Knight—destroyed by the natural world.

In Fytte the Third, Stanza 10, Gawain shows his own ability to play the game. Bertilak, of course, knows the kiss came from his wife. Gawain didn't win "by [his] own wit" as Bertilak suggests—the Lady of Hautdesert coerced him into a kiss. But Gawain's winnings are still chaste enough for him to exchange them with his host without confessing to any inappropriate activity.

The men laugh and jest in Fytte the Third, Stanza 11, treating the game as nothing more than an amusement between friends. Their attitude recalls Arthur's confused laughter after the Green Knight leaves Camelot. Gawain, like Arthur, doesn't quite know what he's gotten himself into. The witnesses to the agreement add a sense of accountability for Gawain.

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