Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Paperback – Aug 8 1970
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From the Back Cover
The aim of the present series of York Medieval Texts is to provide editions of major pieces of Middle English writing in a form which will make them accessible without loss of historical authenticity. Texts are chosen because of their importance and artistic merit, and individual volumes may contain a single work, coherent extracts from a longer work, or representative examples of a genre. The principle governing the presentation of the text is to preserve the character of the English while eliminating unnecessary encumbrances such as obsolete letters and manuscript errors. Glossary and explanatory notes operate together to clarify the text; special attention is paid to the interpretation of passages which are syntactically rather than lexically difficult. The introduction to each volume, like the rest of the apparatus, is designed to set the work in its proper literary context. The intention of the series is exclusively literary: the Editors hope to attract a wider audience not only for works within the accepted literary canon, but also for those which have until now been regarded as 'specialist' in appeal, or which have been presented as if they were. This volume adds to the series the complete text of a poem which, although an acknowledged masterpiece of medieval literature, makes abnormal demands upon the reader by reason of its subtle exploitation both of a difficult dialect of Middle English and of the special idiom of alliterative verse. There is no short cut through the difficulties - they are the poem itself - but the present edition is designed to enable the modern reader, and in particular the university student, to reach a sensitive first-hand understanding of the text asthe only basis for valid literary judgement. The introduction deals directly with the poems stylistic qualities and moral content. In conjunction with the select bibliography it describes the relevant Gawain-criticism of the past decade and advances independent critical judgements notably on the central issue of the degree and nature of Gawain's fault. The glossary and notes (at the foot of the page) provide full and explicit elucidation of the text and of allusion within it.
Top Customer Reviews
Another thing that makes Gawain a great read is that it is just a darn good story. When a green man riding a green horse and carrying his own green-haired head gallops into Arthur's dining hall, you know there's going to be some drama in this tale. And there is! There's some hunting and killing of animals for the sportsperson and the bloodthirsty. There's romantic temptation, and there's suspense.
One reviewer speculated on possible symbolism in the novel. The search for deeper meanings might interest some readers. For me to "get" a symbol, it has to jump out of the book and bite me on the nose.
King Arthur, his wife Guinevere, and the Knights of The Round Table are celebrating Christmas and New Year at the famous castle 'Camelot'. One evening a huge knight on horseback bursts into the Hall during dinner, brandishing a large and fearsome battle-axe. Everything about him is green, not only his armor - as one might expect - but also his face, his hair, and even his horse. He has come in peace as he is advertising more than once. In short he says: who is bold enough to step forward and try to chop my head off with this battle-axe? But after one year and a day it will be my turn to deal a blow. Gawain, one of the Knights of The Round Table, steps forward, takes the axe and beheads the Green Knight. As if nothing happened the Green Knight picks up his head, takes it under his arm and the head says: a year and one day from now it will be my turn to give you a blow. You have to promise that you will come looking for me. You can find me at the Green Chapel ( It's almost a joke but who knows? Maybe this is all just a joke ). If you survive my blow I will give you a great reward. The Knight doesn't want to say where the Green Chapel can be found. It's far away from here but you will find people who can show you the way. And remember, you promised. And so the adventure begins for Gawain. He has to go without a companion. He stands on his own for that was a part of the deal.
This Fantasy element is the only one in the story. Everything else is realistic.Read more ›
While it was written at the same time as Chaucer's CANTERBURY TALES, which is difficult but of which the modern reader can usually get the gist, SIR GAWAIN is written in a dialect of rural England which seems more impenetrable nowadays. Under this archaic facade, however, lies a magical tale ostensibly of Arthurian myth, but which is really an adaptation of an older, indigenous legend. The framing of the tale attempts to claim a noble heritage for England from Troy like the Roman poet Vergil had done for Rome with his AENEID.
I was a bit disappointed by the lack of a decent introduction. Barrow provides only a brief explanation of how the text was typeset and minor alterations in spelling, but I would have preferred coverage of the history of the story, the role of Arthurian myth in the popular literature of the writer's region, and a brief mention of the other contents of the manuscript on which the work was found.
If you are a student of English literature, or simply a lover of archaic English texts, the Penguin edition of SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT is a great choice.
This poem has all the hallmarks of being a work of many influences - it has the heroic aspects that one might expect from Old English epics such as Beowulf; it has a decided romantic streak reminiscent of French and Norman influences; it has virtue and church/Christian overlaying influences that come from Latin and ecclesial sources; it has magical and mystical ideas that are most likely Celtic in origin. Perhaps more like a tapestry, the various strands of influence are woven together into a glorious pattern that stands as a towerig achievement of the synthesis of language that Middle English achieved between its Germanic and Latinate streams.
Gawain's story is a very popular one. The most virtuous of the Round Table knights, his bravery and his resourcefulness at seeking the Green Knight, the annual challenger at the court of Arthur, is legendary. Gawain's small fault (and indeed, Gawain was portrayed as a virtuous human, but human nonetheless) warrants a very small penalty, but he is deemed upon reporting back to Camelot that he has brought honour upon the whole fellowship of knights.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I know that the Marie Borroff translation is much praised, but this one is far better for the undergraduate classroom. Read morePublished on May 5 2002 by Joelline
"Sir Gawain" is one of a number of stories that have come down to us from the Medieval period that one cannot help feeling has a wealth of hidden meaning behind it. Read morePublished on Jan. 23 2002 by Thomas F. Ogara
I had to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for a 10th grade British Literature Class and I actually enjoyed reading it. Read morePublished on Oct. 9 2000 by Jen
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