Analysis Pages

Quote Analysis in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Quote Analysis Examples in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:

Fytte the First

🔒 16

"Now take care, Sir Gawain, that thou..."   (Fytte the First)

Notice how the perspective changes in this clause. The narrator speaks directly to Sir Gawain by saying "Now [you] take care"; this shift in address pulls readers directly into the same position as Gawain, which creates a contrast with the jovial Christmas scene. Gawain and the readers know that there are many dangerous trials to come.

Subscribe to unlock »

"By Gog..."   (Fytte the First)

The expression “By Gog” in the original poem is written “bigog” and means “By God.” The Green Knight uses the expression here as a means of expressing his pleasure that Gawain has taken up his challenge.

Subscribe to unlock »

"my liege lady..."   (Fytte the First)

The phrase refers to Queen Guinevere, the lady to whom Gawain owes his “liege” or allegiance and service. Guinevere sits on the dais with Arthur, Gawain, and others.

Subscribe to unlock »

"I beseech now with all courtesy that this affair might be mine...."   (Fytte the First)

“Beseech” means to beg; “courtesy” as it is used here means respect. Gawain is essentially asking, as politely as he can, that Arthur allow him to accept the Green Knight's challenge.

Subscribe to unlock »

"Now is the revel and the renown of the Round Table overcome by the word of a single man; for all tremble for dread without a blow shown...."   (Fytte the First)

Since no one has yet answered his challenge, the Green Knight insults the courage and the honor of King Arthur and his knights.

Subscribe to unlock »

"let us see quickly if any herein dare say aught..."   (Fytte the First)

“Aught” means anything. The Green Knight has issued his challenge and now waits to see if anyone will speak up and rise to it.

Subscribe to unlock »

"this branch that I bear here..."   (Fytte the First)

In Celtic mythology, holly serves as a symbol of goodwill, and the Green Knight refers to this branch to indicate that he comes to the court in peace.

Subscribe to unlock »

"Therefore for phantom and faery the folk there deemed it;..."   (Fytte the First)

Those assembled in Arthur’s court think that the Green Knight is some supernatural being, as if he were an otherworldly creature such as a phantom or a faery.

Subscribe to unlock »

"He had neither helm nor hauberk, nor gorget, armour nor breastplate, nor shaft nor shield to guard or to smite..."   (Fytte the First)

“Helm” refers to a helmet. A “hauberk” is a piece of armor covering the neck and shoulders; a “gorget” is a piece of armor covering the throat. In context, “armour,” a variant spelling of “armor,” is a full-length coat of armor that covers the body, whereas while a breastplate specifically covers the chest. “Shaft” refers to the lance a knight would carry into battle, and to “smite” means to strike with a strong blow. Without a lance or a shield, the Green Knight is not prepared to strike his enemies or protect himself from their blows. The passage establishes that the Green Knight has not come to Arthur’s court to fight.

Subscribe to unlock »

"a steed full stiff to guide..."   (Fytte the First)

The horse’s being “full stiff to guide” means that the horse is strong and high spirited, and controlling the horse requires a firm hand.

Subscribe to unlock »

"the hem well stretched..."   (Fytte the First)

The hood’s hem being “well stretched” as it “lay on his shoulders” suggests that his shoulders are quite broad.

Subscribe to unlock »

"he carried himself in hostile fashion and was entirely green...."   (Fytte the First)

The stranger’s great size and “hostile,” or confrontational, bearing make him a threatening figure—to say nothing of his being entirely green.

Subscribe to unlock »

"Every two5 had twelve dishes between them..."   (Fytte the First)

Being “served double,” every two diners shared twelve serving dishes of food, emphasizing the abundance and variety of food at Arthur’s feast.

Subscribe to unlock »

"Bishop Baldwin at the top begins the table, and Ywain, Urien’s son, ate by himself...."   (Fytte the First)

Bishop Baldwin, Arthur’s priest, appears in several tales; in some accounts, he is a bishop in the church and a knight of the Round Table. In various tales, the knight Ywain is the son of King Urien of Gorre, a 6th-century Celtic king, and Morgan le Fay, a sorceress.

Subscribe to unlock »

"The good Gawain was placed there beside Guinevere, and Agravain of the Hard Hand sat on the other side, both of them the king’s sister’s sons and full sure knights...."   (Fytte the First)

Guinevere is the queen; Gawain and Agravain, Arthur’s nephews, are sons of Arthur’s half-sister, Morgause, and knights of Arthur's court.

Subscribe to unlock »

"the best man ever above, as it best behoved..."   (Fytte the First)

“The best man” refers to Arthur, who sits “ever above,” meaning that he always sits on the dais, a raised platform. “Behoved” is a variant spelling of “behooved”; the phrase “as it best behoved” means that it was most fitting and appropriate for Arthur to sit on the dais above others in the hall.

Subscribe to unlock »

"rehearsed the covenants..."   (Fytte the Second)

“Rehearsed” as it is used here means that the lord and Gawain reviewed the agreements between them so that there would be no doubt as to what would be expected of each.

Subscribe to unlock »

"a high errand and a hasty had me from these dwellings..."   (Fytte the Second)

Gawain must leave the castle because he has a “high” or important errand that he must pursue with haste, meaning with speed and urgency.

Subscribe to unlock »

"but Gawain answers him that he can in no wise...."   (Fytte the Second)

“In no wise” means in no way; Gawain says that there’s no way he can stay longer.

Subscribe to unlock »

"to glad Sir Gawain with games in the hall that night. When it came time the king commanded lights; Sir Gawain took his leave and went to his bed...."   (Fytte the Second)

In context, “to glad Sir Gawain” means to entertain him so that he will enjoy himself. The phrase “the king commanded lights” indicates that the lord, here referred to as “the king,” called for torches to light the way for those assembled to go to their beds.

Subscribe to unlock »

"The kerchiefs of the one broidered with many clear pearls..."   (Fytte the Second)

“Broidered” means “embroidered,” indicating that the kerchiefs were decorated with thread sewn in patterns on the face of the fabric; in this case, the embroidery secured pearls to the fabric, making it especially beautiful.

Subscribe to unlock »

"The Lord turns thither..."   (Fytte the Second)

“Thither” means to go toward a place. Going toward the chapel, the lady of the castle, presumably the lord’s wife, goes into her room, while Gawain and the lord proceed to the chapel.

Subscribe to unlock »

"I think that those who hear him will learn how to make love...."   (Fytte the Second)

The passage refers to courtly love, a conception of love in medieval literature based on nobility and chivalry. A knight demonstrated courtly love for a married noblewoman by performing deeds in her service. Typically, courtly love was not consummated, as it existed on a higher plane as an ennobling passion.

Subscribe to unlock »

"they questioned and inquired sparingly in skilful queries..."   (Fytte the Second)

The lord’s knights ask Gawain questions, but do so “sparingly,” meaning with restraint; their “queries” or questions are “skilful” [skillful], suggesting that they are apt and tactful.

Subscribe to unlock »

"the hero..."   (Fytte the Second)

“The hero” refers to Gawain.

Subscribe to unlock »

"the warrior..."   (Fytte the Second)

“The warrior” refers to the lord of the castle.

Subscribe to unlock »

"—double fold as was proper—with pottages..."   (Fytte the Second)

Gawain’s being served “double fold” suggests that he was given large portions of food. “Pottages” refers to thick soups or stews made with vegetables and grains.

Subscribe to unlock »

"and then his cheer mended...."   (Fytte the Second)

Before being taken in at the castle, Gawain had suffered from the cold and had often felt lonely and discouraged during his journey. Now that he is warm and well-tended by the lord, his good spirits return.

Subscribe to unlock »

"sailing skirts..."   (Fytte the Second)

In describing the robe’s cut and construction, “sailing” is used to mean flowing, suggesting that the robe is rich and luxurious.

Subscribe to unlock »

"the hero was despoiled of his burnie and of his bright weeds...."   (Fytte the Second)

As “despoiled” is used here, it means stripped; Gawain was undressed by the attendants, who removed his armor and clothing.

Subscribe to unlock »

"a bright bower where the bedding was curtains of pure silk with clear gold hems, and covertures right curious with comely borders, adorned above with bright fur...."   (Fytte the Second)

In context, a “bower” is a private bedroom in the castle. The passage describes the bed, which is enclosed with silk curtains that hang from a canopy or frame above it. “Covertures” are coverings, referring to the covers on the bed.

Subscribe to unlock »

"Firm-gaited was he on his stalwart limbs..."   (Fytte the Second)

“Gait” refers to a manner of walking or moving on foot; “stalwart” means possessing great strength, and “limbs” refers to a person’s legs. The description of the lord indicates that he had not been physically diminished by old age.

Subscribe to unlock »

"All hasped in his high weeds, they led him to the hall, where a fair fire burned fiercely upon the hearth...."   (Fytte the Second)

“High weeds” refers to Gawain’s fine clothing. The knights’ being “hasped in his high weeds” indicates that they laid hands on Gawain in friendship and affection as they escorted him to the hall.

Subscribe to unlock »

"the deep double ditch..."   (Fytte the Second)

The moat’s being a “double ditch” suggests that it was very wide, perhaps wider than most moats.

Subscribe to unlock »

"St. Julian..."   (Fytte the Second)

In the Catholic church, St. Julian is the patron saint of travelers.

Subscribe to unlock »

"I pray my pater and ave and creed..."   (Fytte the Second)

“I pray my pater and ave and creed” refers to prayers Gawain says as he rides. “Pater” is Latin for father; “my pater” refers to the Lord’s prayer that begins, “Our father who art in heaven.” “Ave,” which means “hail” in Latin, refers to the Ave Maria prayer, which begins, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” “Creed” refers to the Apostles Creed, a statement of Christian faith that begins, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty.”

Subscribe to unlock »

"At that tide to Mary he made his moan..."   (Fytte the Second)

In context, “tide” refers to an anniversary or festival that is observed in Christianity, in this case Christmas. The phrase “to Mary he made his moan” means that Gawain prayed to the Virgin Mary.

Subscribe to unlock »

"he slept in his iron..."   (Fytte the Second)

The phrase “to sleep in one’s iron” means that Gawain slept wearing his armor, to protect himself from the sleet.

Subscribe to unlock »

"and it became the hero passing fair...."   (Fytte the Second)

“Became” is used to mean that Gawain’s shield suited him very well and enhanced his appearance.

Subscribe to unlock »

"The circlet that surrounded his crown..."   (Fytte the Second)

As “crown” is used here, it refers to the top of Gawain’s head, and the “circlet” is a coronet or a decorated circular band of metal he wears on his head.

Subscribe to unlock »

"the helm..."   (Fytte the Second)

“The helm” refers to Gawain’s helmet.

Subscribe to unlock »

"Gringolet..."   (Fytte the Second)

Gringolet is Gawain’s war horse, famous for his strength and proficiency in battle.

Subscribe to unlock »

"he heard his mass..."   (Fytte the Second)

In the Catholic church, a Mass is a solemn religious rite with a priest leading congregants in prayer and communion with God. Before Gawain departs, a Mass is held for him with prayers for his safe return.

Subscribe to unlock »

"a sure brand girt about his side by a silken sash..."   (Fytte the Second)

In Old English, “brand” is a poetic name for a sword; Gawain’s sword is “sure,” suggesting that it is strong and reliable; it is “girt” or tied by his side with a sash made of silk, in keeping with Gawain’s high position in Arthur’s court and the splendid nature of his attire as he sets out on his quest for the Green Knight.

Subscribe to unlock »

"And so this Yule went by, and the year after it..."   (Fytte the Second)

The reference to the passing of time continues the chronology of the story; when accepting the Green Knight’s challenge, Gawain had promised to find him one year later and receive a blow at his hands.

Subscribe to unlock »

"Although there was little news when they went to their seats, now they are provided with stern work,..."   (Fytte the Second)

As “stern” is used here, it means putting someone under extreme pressure. After the Green Knight’s sudden appearance at Arthur’s feast, Arthur and his knights could not ignore his subsequent insults; the Green Knight’s challenge to their courage and reputation had to be accepted.

Subscribe to unlock »

"foul fox-fell; the fiend have the good ones!..."   (Fytte the Third)

In context, “foul” means offensive and disgusting, especially in regard to smell. “Fox-fell” refers to the pelt or coat cut off the fox. The passage, “the fiend have the good one,” is a jest, with “fiend” referring to the devil.

Subscribe to unlock »

"“Of the bargain no matter,” quoth curtly that other, “so long as the debts that I owed are properly paid.” ..."   (Fytte the Third)

Gawain is being deceitful with the lord. By not giving him the lady’s sash, Gawain breaks the covenant he made with the lord.

Subscribe to unlock »

"He met this good man in the middle of the floor..."   (Fytte the Third)

When the lord returned from the hunt, Gawain rose from his seat beside the fireplace and crossed to the middle of the room to greet him.

Subscribe to unlock »

"found fire on the floor..."   (Fytte the Third)

“Fire on the floor” refers to a fire burning on the grate in a fireplace.

Subscribe to unlock »

"and turned off his coat...."   (Fytte the Third)

“Turned off his coat” means that they skinned the fox for his pelt.

Subscribe to unlock »

"Then he shrives him cleanly and shows his misdeeds, both the more and the less, beseeches mercy, and begs for absolution...."   (Fytte the Third)

The passage relates to the sacrament of confession in the Catholic church through which sinners are reconciled with God by confessing their sins to a priest and receiving absolution or forgiveness. In context, “shrives” means that Gawain presents himself to the priest for confession.

Subscribe to unlock »

"and besought him for her sake never to discover it, but to conceal it loyally from her lord. The man agreed that never person should know it indeed but they twain...."   (Fytte the Third)

Despite his efforts to avoid dishonorable conduct unbefitting a knight, Gawain has placed himself in an impossible situation. He cannot keep both his vow to the lady and the covenant he made with her lord.

Subscribe to unlock »

"With a little love-dalliance he laid aside all the pointed speeches that sprang from her mouth...."   (Fytte the Third)

Gawain playfully distracts the lady and preserves his honor as a knight.

Subscribe to unlock »

"it behooved him either to accept her love or rudely refuse it..."   (Fytte the Third)

As a knight, Gawain is bound by courtesy and courtly love to serve the lady and grant her wishes; however, were he to “accept her love” and have a sexual relationship with her, doing so would violate his vows to the church and his vow of loyalty to the lord of the castle, the lady’s husband.

Subscribe to unlock »

"and great was the peril between them, unless Mary thought of her knight...."   (Fytte the Third)

The “peril” or danger between Gawain and the lady is that they are close to having a forbidden sexual encounter; “unless Mary thought of her knight” refers to the Virgin Mary’s interceding to give Gawain strength to resist the temptation.

Subscribe to unlock »

"her breast bare before and behind too..."   (Fytte the Third)

The passage suggests that the area of her chest and back immediately below her neck is uncovered, implying that beneath her mantle, she wears a revealing, low-cut gown.

Subscribe to unlock »

"and oft he reeled in again, so wily was Reynard...."   (Fytte the Third)

The fox cleverly zigzagged through the terrain making it harder to catch him. “Wily” means skilled at gaining an advantage, especially by being devious.

Subscribe to unlock »

"all the gathered mute..."   (Fytte the Third)

The hunting dogs have reassembled into a pack.

Subscribe to unlock »

"but then he arrived, ere he knew it, at a chosen stand..."   (Fytte the Third)

Before the fox realizes it, he has been driven to the place where the hunters wanted him to go.

Subscribe to unlock »

"steals out full stilly by a rough rand...."   (Fytte the Third)

“Steals out full stilly by a rough rand” means that the fox slipped very quietly from the wooded area to a strip of uncleared land that bordered it.

Subscribe to unlock »

"the cunning of their wiles..."   (Fytte the Third)

The “cunning of their wiles” refers to the dogs’ skillful, clever strategies in pursuing the fox.

Subscribe to unlock »

"for I have tried thee twice, and faithful I find thee; now ‘third time, best time...."   (Fytte the Third)

In the context of the passage, “third time, best time” could be interpreted to mean that testing Gawain’s character a third time would establish without a doubt that he is an honorable knight who keeps his word.

Subscribe to unlock »

"the lord called to bedwards, and to the room with a fireplace they passed...."   (Fytte the Third)

When the lord announced that it was time to retire for the night, he and Gawain go to the lord’s bedchamber.

Subscribe to unlock »

"But he would not on account of his breeding reprove her, but responded in all courtesy, howsoever outrageous she might be...."   (Fytte the Third)

The lady continues her attempts to seduce Gawain, but as a matter of honor, he continues to resist her advances.

Subscribe to unlock »

"a great bag that he had made..."   (Fytte the Third)

“A great bag” refers to the two halves of the boar that had been bound together and suspended from a staff to be carried home.

Subscribe to unlock »

"the tale of the girth37 and the length of the wild swine..."   (Fytte the Third)

In the context of the passage, which describes the size of the boar, “girth” seems to refer to the width or bulk of the swine, as opposed to the length of his body.

Subscribe to unlock »

"and Gawain came promptly to take his fees there...."   (Fytte the Third)

The passage refers to the agreement between Gawain and the lord that each would give to the other whatever was gained while they were apart.

Subscribe to unlock »

"set his point exactly in the slot,31 pierced him up to the hilt so that his heart split..."   (Fytte the Third)

The lord stabbed the boar in the chest in the most effective place to kill him and pushed the blade into the beast up to the handle of the sword.

Subscribe to unlock »

"the knight..."   (Fytte the Third)

The lord of the castle is referred to here as “the knight.” In other places in the text, he is referred to as “the hero.” Gawain is alternately referred to as “the knight” and “the hero,” as well.

Subscribe to unlock »

"a manifold folly..."   (Fytte the Third)

In context, “manifold” means so-called for many good reasons. In relation to the beginning of the sentence, Gawain is saying that for him to try to explain “true love” would rightfully be called “folly,” a foolish act, for many reasons.

Subscribe to unlock »

"Full oft he bides at bay, and maims the pack in the mêlée...."   (Fytte the Third)

When confronted with the baying hunting hounds, the boar “bides,” meaning that he stays or remains in place; he chooses to fight the hounds, rather than retreat. “Maims” refers to wounding or injuring so severely as to cause permanent damage; “mêlée” is the French translation of “melee,” meaning a confused, disordered fight.

Subscribe to unlock »

"they blew the recheat...."   (Fytte the Third)

The hunters who found the boar blew their bugles to reassemble the rest of the hounds and hunting party.

Subscribe to unlock »

"the cock had crowed and cackled but thrice..."   (Fytte the Third)

The passage refers to roosters crowing at the approach of dawn.

Subscribe to unlock »

"Loudly they blew the prize..."   (Fytte the Third)

The passage means that they blew their bugles in celebration of the successful hunt.

Subscribe to unlock »

"by two such worthy dames, the other and the younger...."   (Fytte the Third)

The passage refers to the lord’s beautiful lady, “the younger,” who visited Gawain in his bedchamber, and to her older, unattractive companion and escort, “the other,” who was with the lady when Gawain first met her.

Subscribe to unlock »

"By Mary..."   (Fytte the Third)

The reference to the Virgin Mary serves as an interjection, a word or phrase that introduces or suddenly interrupts a sentence for emphasis or expression of a spontaneous feeling or reaction. Numerous interjections referring to religious figures are found in the text.

Subscribe to unlock »

"By God, I should be glad—if it seemed good to you—to do what I might in speech or in service to enhance your worship;6—it were a pure joy.”..."   (Fytte the Third)

The passage reflects the ideal of courtly love in medieval romantic literature.

Subscribe to unlock »

"and crossed himself with his hand, to be the safer for his prayer...."   (Fytte the Third)

The passage suggests that Gawain prays the lady’s intentions are not dishonorable or perhaps that he can resist temptation if they are.

Subscribe to unlock »

"bothered in his conscience what this affair might mean or amount to. Marvellous it seemed to him...."   (Fytte the Third)

It bothers Gawain’s sense of honor and morality to be alone in his bedroom with the lord’s wife. “Marvellous” is used here to mean astonishing.

Subscribe to unlock »

"shot and alighted full oft..."   (Fytte the Third)

In context, “alighted” means dismounted from a horse; “full oft” means very often. The lord’s hunting was very successful; often after shooting an arrow, he got off his horse to claim the deer he had killed.

Subscribe to unlock »

"pestered at the heights, and worried at the waters..."   (Fytte the Third)

In context, “pestered” means besieged and tormented, and “worried” means chased and frightened. The phrase indicates that the deer could not escape the hunters, who pursued them on the high ground and by the streams in the valley.

Subscribe to unlock »

"Well it beseems..."   (Fytte the Fourth)

“Well it beseems” means it is very fitting or suitable. If the sentence were written in modern English, it would read, “It is very fitting for the man dressed in green to worship here in the devil’s way.”

Subscribe to unlock »

"At that the man turned his bridle in the wood, hit the horse with his heels as hard as he could; leaped over the land, and left the knight there all alone. ..."   (Fytte the Fourth)

The servant’s refusal to go any farther with Gawain heightens the suspense as Gawain grows closer to meeting the Green Knight.

Subscribe to unlock »

"if it pleases thee to lose thy life, I shall not let nor hinder thee...."   (Fytte the Fourth)

In context, “let” means to give opportunity to. The servant is saying that he will not help Gawain in losing his life, nor will he obstruct Gawain in doing it.

Subscribe to unlock »

"none so proud in arms..."   (Fytte the Fourth)

The phrase could be interpreted as meaning very well-armed or known for one’s skills in battle.

Subscribe to unlock »

"The place that ye press to is held full perilous...."   (Fytte the Fourth)

“Perilous” means dangerous; the passage means that the green chapel, Gawain’s destination, is a most dangerous place.

Subscribe to unlock »

"if ye would work by my wit ye should be the better for it...."   (Fytte the Fourth)

The servant implores Gawain to take his advice, for Gawain’s own good.

Subscribe to unlock »

"Gawain’s servant, who bore his lance and helm, was by then on the horse...."   (Fytte the Fourth)

Carrying Gawain’s lance and helmet, his servant mounts his own horse; he will accompany Gawain and direct him to the chapel of the Green Knight.

Subscribe to unlock »

"by his sooth..."   (Fytte the Fourth)

The phrase is an archaic expression used to emphasize that what one says is the truth.

Subscribe to unlock »

"but to save himself when it behoved him to suffer, to await his doom without resistance, with no brand or knife to defend him...."   (Fytte the Fourth)

The passage clarifies why Gawain wears the lady’s sash when he prepares to meet the Green Knight: to save himself from cowardice in keeping his part of the covenant and to give him courage as he faces his death.

Subscribe to unlock »

"he dressed his love-token double about him..."   (Fytte the Fourth)

Gawain’s “love-token” is the sash given to him by the lady. He wraps it twice around his waist.

Subscribe to unlock »

"rocked from the rust,..."   (Fytte the Fourth)

“Rocked from the rust” refers to freeing the individual interlocking rings of the chainmail that had rusted together.

Subscribe to unlock »

Analysis Pages