What Is The Significance Of The Green Girdle?

Updated 30 September, 2023
The green girdle in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, given to him by Lady Bercilak shortly after he puts his foot down about not being able to court her, symbolizes the reward of keeping true to the ideals of Chivalry. When Gawain is speaking to Arthur’s court after returning from his journey, the court adorns similar girdles as a show of honor.
Detailed answer:

Chivalry was a very important code to live by during the period when Sir Gawain and the Green Knight took place, because it was seen as the lifestyle and moral code followed by medieval knights. The Green Knight tests Sir Gawain to meet him one year from the day he inquires him to so that the Green Knight can return the blow he received thus challenging Sir Gawain’s chivalry because if he does not meet the Green Knight he will be observed as a dishonorable man who does not keep his word.
One of moments of loyalty that is tested involves confronts between Sir Gawain and Bertilak’s wife. The wife kisses Gawain three different times which he keeps his word by giving the Lord the same number of kisses. She gives him a green girdle to protect him from the Green Knight, and he respectfully refuses the advances of the Lord’s wife. Gawain accepts the green girdle from Lady Bercilak to save his life when he must face the Green Knight at the Green Chapel. When Lady Bercilak gives him the girdle, she states that whoever holds it close, “No hero under heaven can hack him into pieces”, which convinces Gawain to take it. The green girdle here is the symbol of loyalty and chivalry.
After Gawain has won the game, and the Green Knight tells him that he was Bercilak the whole time, and knew that Gawain was not honest with him by not giving him the green girdle. Gawain becomes flustered by this revelation, stating that fear and cunning overtook him and made him keep the girdle, and is now disgusted by his actions. Only after his arrival back to King Arthur’s court does he learn that it was alright to mess up here and there, seen further when the green girdle become a symbol of honor in the court. With his faults being recognized and accepted by the royal court of King Arthur, Gawain learns the truth behind knightly perfectionism, and so ends a step in his journey of self-discovery.

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