Readers of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight develop a first impression of Sir Gawain as an almost unhuman like perfection of a Knight. Sir Gawain bravely takes on the challenge of the Beheading Game, in order to protect his King, and announces why he should be the one to accept this challenge and modestly puts that he has the most to prove. Sir Gawain’s modesty and chivalry displays Sir Gawain’s perceived perfection, and at the beginning of the story, it seems that Sir Gawain is a character of a different kind of world.
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Lady Bertilak is a pawn in a game designed to test King Arthur’s court, and as she approaches Sir Gawain, the reader discovers a parallel between Lord Bertilak’s hunt and Lady Bertilak’s quest for discovering Sir Gawain’s humanity through the use of the deer, the boar, and the fox.
Lady Bertilak is an accurate symbol for the daily temptations that Sir Gawain faces and that many face in the real world. Sir Gawain had sworn his loyalty to Lord Bertilak, and Lady Bertilak’s appearance, beautiful and well dressed, provides the perfect temptation to test Sir Gawain’s faithfulness and chivalry (Goldhurst, p. 63). Lady Bertilak has a major role in the story of Sir Gawain, and is in large part, responsible for his breaking of the Chivalric Code. She is the wife to Lord Bertilak and is a key part in the deal that Sir Gawain and Lord Bertilak made to split their winnings.
Lord Bertilak was to hunt and then give whatever he obtained to Sir Gawain, and in return, Sir Gawain was to stay in the castle and give Lord Bertilak whatever he won. This game presented the perfect opportunity to truly test Sir Gawain’s manners. As Lord Bertilak left to go hunt, Lady Bertilak began a hunt for Sir Gawain. Every hunt was written with great detail, and drew a parallel to the approach Lady Bertilak took in tempting Sir Gawain. Lady Bertilak’s first two attempts at temptation failed and seemed to confirm the reader’s predisposition about Sir Gawain’s perfection, but with her third attempt, she presented him with protection of the green girdle, which he could not refuse.
Lady Bertilak’s first attempt to tempt Sir Gawain was paired with the story of the deer hunt. The pairing of the deer hunt and the pursuit of Sir Gawain is valuable to the story in proving to the reader Sir Gawain’s trustworthiness. Sir Gawain was unexpecting and ignorant of the events that were about to happen, much like the deer was when Lord Bertilak killed it. Sir Gawain is most similar to the deer in the manner in the sense that he is noble game (Savage,
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