By Derek Brewer, Jonathan Gibson

ISBN-10: 0859915298

ISBN-13: 9780859915298

The essays accrued right here at the Gawain-Poet supply stimulating introductions to Sir Gawain and the fairway Knight, Pearl, Cleanness and persistence, supplying either details and unique research. subject matters comprise theories of authorship; the ancient and social heritage to the poems, with person sections on relatively very important positive aspects inside of them; gender roles within the poems; the manuscript itself; the metre, vocabulary and dialect of the poems; and their resources. a piece dedicated to Sir Gawain investigates the information of courtesy and chivalry stumbled on inside it, and explores a few of its later diversifications from the 15th to the 20 th centuries. a whole bibliography completes the quantity.

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This in itself is striking in an age when satire and complaint were so strong in Chaucer and Langland. Enough, too, has been said of the poet's estimation of the harshness of life to suggest that his praise is not merely a sentimental complacency. Patience and Cleanness are usually rightly called homilies; and Cleanness, with its reference to the Fall of the Angels, the Flood, the destruction of Sodom, and the fate of Belshazzar, cannot be accused of turning a blind eye either to literary images of evil, or to what these images tell us about real life.

Gawain has obligations in honour to King Arthur, to his host Bertilak and in consequence to their wives. Internally he has obligations to himself, to keep his promise, to his own disadvantage, even when it seems that no one else in the world would know that he had not done so, as the guide suggests (211825). The internal obligations merge into conscience, a sense of guilt, even, Pearsall suggests below, embarrassment. The social and mental structures of honour are of great importance but cannot be pursued further here.

As he had failed what was the point of Gawain a year later coming to his solitary test? 4 That does not lessen the ambiguity but changes it somewhat. Ambiguity does not imply uncertainty: rather that the poet is here playing with us (see further on this and related matters Ganim 1983, 5578). The other poems have less occasion to do so. The acceptance of the rough with the smooth, humour, love of splendour and virtue, are characteristic of positive acceptance in the poet's view of life. The greatest crime, he says, in Cleanness, in what must be one of his most typical remarks, is 'scorn of oneself' 'heyng of seluen' (579); the special reference is presumably to sodomy, but the form of generalisation is significant.

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A companion to the Gawain-poet by Derek Brewer, Jonathan Gibson


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