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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Paperback – Aug 8 1970

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 171 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; 1 edition (Aug. 8 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810103281
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810103283
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,826,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have read at least four translations of Gawain, including Tolkein's, and the Brian Stone version is my favorite. It is written in understandable English. As another reviewer has pointed out, Stone's version is most like the medieval one in its structure, its use of alliteration, and the rhyme scheme of the bob and wheel. Tolkein, in an appendix to his version, gives a clear and enlightening explanation of the principles of this kind of poetry. Once you've read Tolkein's explanation, your appreciation of the poem will be greatly enhanced. Nowadays, many poets and others turn up their noses at alliteration, but I love it. So the language is one of the things that make the poem such a pleasure to read.
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.
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Format: Paperback
The author of this little masterpiece is unknown. This story - or 'romance' if you like - was found in a little manuscript that was written in c.1380. There are three other stories in that manuscript presumably by the same author.

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.
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Format: Paperback
The Penguin Classics edition of SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT, edited by J.A. Burrow, is fantastic for motivated readers who wish to approach the text as it really is, and delve deep into its symbolism and historical references. Burrow's edition is not a translation into modern English, but a presentation of the original Middle English with enough notes and and a glossary so copious that the reasonably well-educated reader will be able to tackle and even really enjoy this important work.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Middle English is a diverse collection of different dialects and styles, when it comes to literature. At the same time that Chaucer was writing in the southeast of England, with good command of French and Italian poetic sensibilities, there was a strong tradition in the north and west country of alliterative poetry, the kind that owed as much to the Old English forms of verse and use of language as to the new influences post-Norman Conquest-wise. Among the products of this time and place, the anonymously composed 'Sir Gawain and Green Knight' is one of the most outstanding.
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.
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