Medieval romance literature is a literary genre comprised of fictional works of chivalry and adventures from the Middle Ages. Works in the genre were widely popular and typically belonged to one of three cycles, or groups of tales based on the same frame story. Common elements of medieval romance include chivalry, courtly love, religious piety, adventure, magical elements and fantastical antagonists.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a great example of a medieval romance. The strongest aspect that can be seen in the poem is the fact that chivalry is idealized and strongly prevalent throughout the story. An event that supports this statement occurs at the very beginning of the story.
When the Green Knight first appears in the story he asks the people in King Arthur’s court to partake in his game. When no one steps up the Green Knight asks King Arthur to act because it seems that his court and himself are weak compared to the great stories he has heard. “What, is this Arthur’s house,” said the horseman then, “Whose fame is so fair in far realms and wide? Where is now your arrogance and your awesome deeds, Your valor and your victories and your vaunting words? Now are the revel and renown of the Round Table Overwhelmed with a word of one man’s speech,” King Arthur accepts the challenge, but Sir Gawain takes his place. Sir Gawain takes the game of cutting the Green Knights head, and now must have is cut in a years time at the Green Chapel.
Sir Gawain shows his chivalry values by fighting against the Green Knight and other beasts, resisting the temptation of the Lady Burdilak, and, finally, he proves his loyalty to God and King.
The plot of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight continues to adhere to many characteristics of medieval romance throughout the story, but this first one scene shows the main element of the genre – chivalry.
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