http://www.shss.montclair.edu/english/furr/arkin.html Lili Arkin, "The Role of Women in _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_"

The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Lili Arkin

May 4, 1995

In the Fourteenth Century, Feudalism and its offspring, chivalry, were in decline due to drastic social and economic changes. In this light, _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_ presents both a nostalgic support of the feudal hierarchies and an implicit criticism of changes, which, if left unchecked will lead to its ultimate destruction. I would suggest that the women in the story are the Gawain poet's primary instruments in this critique and reinforcement of Feudalism. By positioning The Virgin Mary (as the singular female archetype representing spiritual love, obedience, chastity, and life) against Morgan and Bertilak's wife (who represent the traditional female archetypes of courtly love, disobedience, lust and death) the Gawain poet points out the conflict between courtly love and spiritual love which he, and other critics of the time, felt had drastically weakened the religious values behind chivalry. As such, the poem is a warning to its Aristocratic readers that the traditional religious values underlying the feudal system must be upheld in order to avert destruction of their way of life.

It is easy to read _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_ as a romantic celebration of chivalry, but Ruth Hamilton believes that "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight contains a more wide-ranging, more serious criticism of chivalry than has heretofore been noticed" (113). Specifically, she feels that the poet is showing Gawain's reliance on chivalry's outside form and substance at the expense of the original values of the Christian religion from which it sprang. As she shows, "the first order of knights were monastic ones, who took vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity. The first duties the knights undertook, the crusades, were for the Church" (113). The great divergence in the two came with the rise of courtly love in which the knights were led to great feats of bravery and uplift by devotion to a mistress rather than God. Given the Church's mistrust of women and the flesh, the contradiction seems clear. Hamilton tells us there was a mass of clerical writings in the Fourteenth Century that were critical of chivalry and show the split between chivalry and the church during that time.

Given this mistrust of women by the church, the placement of the women in the story must be a critical medium for delivering this message. Interestingly, the women appear to wield great power. Bertilak's wife is operating unassisted against Gawain in the bedroom as the hunter and aggressor. Morgan is the instigator of the plot which begins the story, and she is strong enough to move into Bertilak's castle, turn him green and order him to walk and talk with a severed head. However, the poet never intends to present a world where women are powerful; rather, these women constitute a metaphor for other anti-social forces and dangers outside the control of feudalism and chivalry which a medieval world genders female because of a set of biblical and classical models which establish anything subversive as feminine.

Much of the identification of women with subversion is accomplished through the operation of the major medieval archetypes. Lady Bertilak is clearly seen in the Biblical role of temptress. The Biblical archetype began with Eve and as Maureen Fries shows "Eve became known as the source and symbol of lust and the dangers of the flesh; it was she who led Adam astray" (27). In Gawain's anti-feminist tirade, Gawain actually places her in a long line of other biblical temptresses including Delilah and Bathsheba (1216-19).

But Lady Bertilak is also strongly associated the romantic archetype of "courtly love". As such, Fries says, the Lady "becomes the ambivalent mirror in which the knight pictures his own potential for moral achievement or moral failure in terms of the male warrior ethos such literature was designed to glorify" (28). Even before examining the Lady's operation in the bedroom, the moral contradiction between the two archetypes is evident and defines the dilemma he will face.

If we look now look at the unique archetype of the Virgin Mary and her special relationship to Gawain, we see how the poet has structured the bedroom scene as the conflicting demands of spiritual and courtly love. Mary is unique among women in Christianity. She is the model of female behavior representing humility and obedience to God in her role as the Mother of God. She is a virgin, untainted by sexuality, which is considered the root of all evil in the early Christian church. As Marina Warner says in _Alone of All Her Sex_, "The cult of Mary is inextricably interwoven with Christian ideas about the dangers of the flesh and their special connection with women." She is a life giver without sin, the only woman to have both motherhood and chastity. This seems to sum up the positioning of Mary on one side representing spiritual love, chastity, obedience and life and Lady Bertilak on the other as the archetype of both courtly love and biblical temptress with associations of lust, disobedience and death. Describing this concept so fundamental to Christianity, Marina Warner says "To this day it is a specially graceful analogue... a great vault thrown over the history of western attitudes to women, the whole mighty span rising on Eve the temptress on one side, and Mary the paragon on the other" (60).

That Gawain is Mary's Knight is made clear as he is robed for battle. She is represented as one of the five points of the pentangle, through the five joys of Mary, and her image is etched on the back of his shield. The poem describes the arming scene which shows her special relationship to him:

That his prowess all depended on the five pure Joys that the holy Queen of Heaven had of her child. Accordingly the courteous Knight had that Queen's image etched on the inside of his armored shield, So that when he beheld her, his heart did not fail. (645-65)
It is important to note that he derives his prowess and courage from his special relationship with Mary. As long as Gawain is facing the dangers which grow out of his bargain with the Green Knight, which does not test his contradicting loyalties in love, his spiritual faith is clear and unshaken and his prowess and courage hold. On his journey to look for the Green Knight he is beset by a number of hardships and is finally at the point of despair. As he lies freezing in the forest he prays to Mary find him shelter and a place to say Mass on Christmas eve. She answers his prayers and leads him to Bertilak's castle.

When Gawain comes to Bertilak's court he is thrown into a totally different world. Here, it is Gawain's prowess in courtly love that the courtiers of Bertilak's castle are interested in rather than some feat of daring like that which Arthur wanted before starting dinner. They say:

This noble Knight will prove what manners the mighty bring; His converse of courtly love shall spur our studying (920-927).
De Roo has argued that Arthur's court, which is described as "in its fair prime" (54) and Arthur as "childlike" (86), represents the early days of chivalry, when it was still young and innocent, given over to jousting and martial exploits more than love. Bertilak, as an older figure, presides over a much more sophisticated and worldly court and presents a more complicated moral situation for Gawain. In Arthur's court, Guinevere sits statically on a dais, silent. In Bertilak's court, Bertilak's wife is a force to be reckoned with in the bedroom. Even in the early days of Arthur's court, a level of moral decay is suggested with their frivolous celebration of Christmas and their reaction to the Green Knight's challenge. There is a warning implicit in the dangers facing them, that the continuing separation of chivalric and Christian values will inevitably be destructive.

This separation becomes clear from the beginning of his sojourn in Bertilak's court and it is demonstrated in his first meeting with the Lady. After his arrival, we see Gawain at Mass "in serious mood the whole service through"(940). This serious mood is immediately forgotten with the sight of the Lady. All he wants to do is to escort her down the aisle and admire her loveliness:

Most winsome in ways of all women alive, She seemed to Sir Gawain, excelling Guinevere. To squire that splendid dame, he strode through the chance. (944-46)
This scene contains another implicit warning; women may look beautiful, but they can also be the route to death and decay. Strolling down the aisle with the Lady is an older woman and the two are compared, 'For if the one was winsome, then withered was the other" (951). Rather than just representing the vicissitudes of time, the comparison is a moral statement about women and their association with sex, sin and death. Marina Warner quotes several Medieval theologians and concludes "the lure of her (Eve's) beauty was nothing but an aspect of the death bought about by her seduction of Adam in the garden" (58). Further, decay of the flesh is often a symbol of spiritual decay and this also traces to Eve who "cursed to bear children rather than blessed with motherhood was identified with nature, a form of low matter that drags man's soul down the spiritual ladder (Warner 58). The juxtaposition of the two women clearly demonstrates this concept.

This moral 'drag' becomes apparent from the beginning of his association with the Lady. On Christmas morning, "that morning when men call to mind the birth of our dear Lord born to die for our destiny" (996-7), instead of finding solace in the meaning of Christmas, Gawain and the Lady "found such solace and satisfaction seated together, in the discrete confidences of their courtly dalliance" (1011-12). When Gawain was alone in the forest, fearing death, he could only think of one thing, that Mary should lead him to a place to say mass on Christmas. Now he is so consumed with his 'luf-talk' that he has forgotten the significance of the day.

This scene is only a foreshadowing of the dangers of courtly love; the bedroom scene is the real proving ground. First, the poet subtly shows how courtly love can fall outside the bounds of the male feudal hierarchy and its rules. On the first day of her assault the Lady begins to establish her own bargain with Gawain--a bargain of courtly love-- through a subtle set of valuations based on his prowess in 'luf-talk'. She says to him:

'For were I worth the whole of woman kind, and all the wealth in the world were in my hand, And if bargaining I were to bid to bring myself a lord- With your novel qualities, knight, made known to me now, Your good looks, gracious manner and great courtesy, All of which I have heard of before, but here prove true- No lord that is living could be allowed to excel you.'
And Gawain replies:
'Indeed, dear lady, you did better,' said the knight, 'But I am proud of the precious price you put on me, And solemnly as your servant say you are my sovereign. May Christ requite it you: I have become your knight.'
Unwittingly, Gawain has entered into another bargain, but now Gawain's bargain is with a woman rather than a man, and his ability to please her with his talk is being tested rather than the other bargains which test his loyalty, valor and truthfulness. The poet is setting up the different bargains to ask the question, which is the most important value of chivalry. The Lady believes courtly love is the highest value in chivalry as she says on the second day:
Since the choicest thing in Chivalry, the chief thing praised, is the loyal sport of love, the very lore of arms (1512-13).
This points out a serious conflict; in the game of courtly love, a man is forced outside of the traditional male hierarchies, placed on equal footing with a woman, and not subject to the feudal loyalty system. It is further suggested that this relationship has eclipsed other relationships within the code of chivalry. And, unlike the other contests, established by men, where the rules are clearly defined, the Lady's game is ambiguous. We can see this as the seduction progresses; Gawain's moral code cannot stand strongly enough in this arena.

It seems as if this is what the Gawain poet intended to suggest when he positioned the bedroom scenes within the hunt scenes. The hunt scenes show an unambiguous world of men and an appropriate venue for male chivalric action. The men are outside, in vigorous, heroic, manly pursuit, training for what is really the purpose of chivalry--the defense of the land and the service of the Church. The Lord is in the lead, the boldest and most active. The rules are followed exactly. Notice how much detail is spent in each hunting scene describing the rules of carving and distributing the days spoils. For example, the poet says of the first day's hunt:

Those highest in rank came up with hosts of attendants, picked out what appeared to be the plumpest beasts And, according to custom, had them cut open with finesse (1325-27).
While the hunt is going on Gawain is lying in bed. The poet mentions this in each hunting scene to emphasize the contrast. For example, on the first day he says, "Thus by the forest borders the brave lord sported, and the good man Gawain, on his gay bed lying" (1178-9). In contrast to the hunt scenes, Gawain's situation seems too pleasurable, bordering on the sin of luxury and representing a private world outside of the traditional hierarchies, rules and loyalties.

The first message, then, is that a knight has no business sporting with women, but there is more of a warning present as the contest in the bedroom escalates. In the bedroom, the Lady is not just an archetype suggesting certain moral associations to the reader; she is a real temptress testing his chastity and a real object of courtly love, testing his courtesy. As she presses him more and more aggressively as each day passes, the conflict between his spiritual love and courtly love becomes apparent. On the third day she "pressed him so hotly" (1770) that the conflict is made clear:

He was concerned for his courtesy, lest he be called caitiff, But more especially for his evil plight if he should plunge into sin, and dishonor the owner of the house treacherously (1773-75).
While he is able to see that his chastity is more important than his courtesy, he is still desperately trying to balance the two. It is his inability to make a clear and unambiguous choice between the two which leads him to accept the girdle. While Mary, representing his spiritual love and faith, saves him from losing his chastity, as the poet says, "And peril would have impended Had Mary not minded her knight" (1768-9), Gawain still turns around and disavows her. When the Lady directly asks him if he has another love, Gawain answers, " 'I owe my oath to none, nor wish to yet a while' " (1790-1). His devotion has been lost in his bargaining.

This loss of devotion and faith is his undoing for it was his faith in Mary, through the contemplation of her five joys and her symbol on the back of her shield, which gave him his prowess and courage. With a weakening of his faith in her, which we can read as a weakening of his spiritual faith as well, he is prey to the Lady's offer of another token to protect him, the girdle. In this way he becomes guilty of the sin of cowardice, as Gawain himself names it when his failings are revealed to him by the Green Knight. We also see that in his bargaining with the Lady and her valuation of him, he has come to value himself too highly, and in this way commits the sin of covetousness.

His disavowal of the Virgin Mary is shown when he trades one symbol for another, the pentangle for the girdle. He gives up the symbol associated with the Virgin Mary and instead embraces the girdle which is associated with the Lady. Hamilton believes that the poet constructed the pentangle as a metaphor for the confusion of chivalry and religion since "all three aspects - Gawain, religion and chivalry - are equivalent , all intertwined and interdependent, none more important the other . Gawain has lost his sense of proportion, his perception of the proper hierarchy of values" (114). We have seen that all these aspects do not support each other, that in fact, his courtesy and his continence have been at war, the weaknesses of the pentangle has become apparent and he is forced to look for another symbol.

There is another possible significance in the acceptance of the girdle as a substitute for the pentangle, his trading of a Marian symbol for a secular symbol. Richard Green points out that during the time the poet was writing, there was a well-known apocryphal story in which Mary gives Doubting Thomas her girdle, the Sacred Cintola, as a sign of his ultimate faith and truthfulness. Green points out the irony which this suggests "from a comparison of the two arming scenes (the prominent shield which serves to establish Gawain as Mary's Knight in the first scene being replaced in the second by a secular travesty of the Sacra Cintola, its green colour carrying the ironic implication of disloyalty in love)" (7). It supports the idea that he has been disloyal to Mary in accepting the 'false girdle.' We later see the girdle labeled as a sign of his 'untrawthe,' his faithlessness.

If this story can be applied here, there are further ironies to be gleaned. The pentangle is an "endless knot' and as such it is impenetrable. Many critics have pointed out that the girdle is not endless, and is in fact broken and needs to be tied and untied. Marina Warner shows how the Virgin became a symbol of wholeness, unbroken because of her virginity. In Medieval writings the Virgin Mary is described as "a closed gate," a "spring shut-up," a "fountain sealed" (Warner). Warner, in discussing the Sacra Cintola, refers to the mythological antecedents of the girdle and says "the sexuality of the symbol derives from its tantalizing ambivalence: loosed, the girdle gives promise; fastened, it denies" (279). Seen in this light, Gawain is trading the pentangle and the Virgin Mary, both symbols that deny and therefore protect, with a symbol which can be loosed and therefore makes Gawain weak and prey to other sins beyond the protection of his chastity.

This idea parallels St. Augustine's theories of concupiscence. Warner defines concupiscence as " 'the tendency to sin,' a weakening of the will that makes resistance difficult, that is the permanent legacy of the Fall, the part of original sin not remitted in baptism. It is related to desire and the evils of the flesh. St. Augustine felt that it was not the act of intercourse that was sinful but the passion necessary to perform it. It is the bodily passions that are mistrusted in Medieval Catholicism, for they weaken reason and will. This is exactly what happened to Gawain, his passion was aroused by his 'luf-talk' with the Lady, weakening his will and opening him up to other sins which are perhaps not as serious as a loss of chastity but are destructive to the workings of the feudal system.

The poet demonstrates that his actions weaken the feudal system by showing that the consequence of his acceptance of the girdle is that he must then conceal it from his host and in the process break his agreement with Bertilak. While he has upheld his bargain with the Lady, and performed with spotless courtesy in the game of courtly love, he has had to break his word and disobey the Lord to do it. Again we see the symbolism of the archetypes at work. Mary, in her role of Mother of God, is a symbol of obedience. Eve, in her role in the Fall, represents disobedience. He has chosen disobedience over obedience. This is where the Gawain poet makes his strongest point; the game of courtly love will ultimately break the male social bonds which hold feudalism together. Only the traditional Christian hierarchies, from which chivalry was born, can provide an adequate support. Christian love and Courtly love are antagonists.

This is reinforced by the final exchange between Gawain and the Green Knight where the poet shows the way he feels feudalism should work--by banishing courtly love and women from the code of chivalry. Sheila Fisher shows how the power the women hold is reappropriated by the men in order to support the male social order. First we see that the outcome of the beheading game, and therefore Gawain's life, rests on his performance of the 'exchange of winnings' agreement, that is to say, on his fidelity to Lord Bertilak. Secondly, after the Green Knight reveals the meaning of the test, he states that the Lady acted at his behest and thereby appropriates the power she seemed to hold. Later in the scene, he reveals that Morgan sent him to Arthur's castle in the guise of the Green Knight; however, by the time he reveals this, he has already appropriated the plan for his own purposes. It is also possible that the bartering game, which becomes the basis for the judgment, is his own invention since he does not attribute this to Morgan's agency. This enables him to then turn her plan, which was hatched for destructive purposes, to a noble and elevating test which serves the high moral purpose of teaching Gawain a lesson--hold true to the ideals of the Christian doctrine as a support for the chivalric code.

Gawain, in his confession and absolution, goes through a similar shifting of power and blame. When the Green Knight first reveals Gawain's failure of "cowardice and covetousness" (2374), Gawain shows deep shame and self abnegation (2369-75). However, after he has been absolved by the Green Knight, he launches into a tirade about women, all biblical temptresses, in which he becomes one in a long line of male victims unwittingly duped by women (2413-28). In this way he displaces the blame and is able to regain his power within the story by returning not as a failure but as a fully reinstated knight of honor.

This tirade against women seems to have another motivation. Hamilton points out that "When Gawain realizes that he cannot achieve perfection through chivalry, his immediate reaction is to dispense with courtesy, that chivalric value of which he is the paragon in this poem" (115). Now he is much more concerned about having been caught in the sins of cowardice and covetousness than whether he is polite.. And not only does he dispense with courtesy but he is finished with women as well. He refuses to return to the castle to make peace with Bertilak's wife and Morgan, even though Morgan is Arthur's half-sister. They are effectively banished. All the external threats they represent, and the internal conflict they generated, are eliminated. Power is back in the hands of the appropriate authority, and Gawain's loyalties are redefined.

This shifting of blame and power is demonstrated through the path the girdle takes as a symbol and who it is associated with (Fisher 89-95). First, it is offered by the lady as a love token made with her own hand. It is a woman's garment, a symbol of female sexuality. Then, it becomes a token endowed with the magic to protect his life, still a female garment, but worn by a man. When the confession and absolution scene occur, it becomes a possession of the Green Knight. He then redefines it as a token "of the great adventure at the Green chapel" (2399). Gawain takes it up as a symbol of his shame. When it returns to Arthur's court, all the men of the Round Table decide to wear it, and it becomes a symbol of honor and a standard part of the male outfit.

This is not the end of the message. While Gawain has clearly learned the lesson and wears the girdle now as a symbol of his shame, the other Knight of Arthur's court have not; they laugh at Gawain's story and proudly take the girdle as a symbol of honor. Guinevere and Morgan will return, and since the knights have not learned their lesson about the dangers of courtly love, they will be destroyed. This story becomes a message, not for Arthur's court, but for the Aristocratic readership of _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_, for they know what will happen to Arthur's court as a result of not heeding this message. By the time Gawain was written, the demise of Camelot was a common part of the lore.

I believe that this is suggested by the bookend references to Troy, for I learned in _Alone of All Her Sex_, that the Virgin's girdle has "direct mythological antecedents in the West" (279). At the judgment of Paris, Aphrodite gives Paris her girdle and promises him his pick of the most beautiful woman. He, in turn, gives her the apple of discord. All of the men of the round table have taken the girdle, and despite its redefinition as a male token, the associations with female sexuality remain. In time, Arthur's court will face the fate of Troy, destroyed by the discord between men brought about by the desire to possess the most beautiful woman. The message is clear. For the bonds between men to remain strong, trafficking with women, in the tradition of courtly love, must be banished.

It seems as if much of what we have read this semester shows a world trying to grapple with massive social change. The books present a perspective which nostalgically supports a dying social structure, that of the feudal economy Unwittingly, these books have also shown how the feudal system, and the religious doctrines which support it, no longer fit comfortably with a more complicated world where the standard basis for exchange and loyalties is being undermined. From our perspective, _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_, has the unintentional effect of pointing out the moral complexities facing Fourteenth Century feudalism.

The conflict Sir Gawain confronts becomes a metaphor for other problems facing the Fourteenth Century aristocracy. Gawain's bargaining with Bertilak's wife, a bargain outside of the traditional aristocratic exchange system, raises the question of who one should bargain with, if the acceptable venues for bargaining--among Aristocratic men --is no longer the only basis for exchange. Bertilak's chastisement and reinstatement of Gawain in the social order, at the end of the beheading game, makes us realize that the traditional loyalties within the hierarchies were not longer enforceable. Aristocratic men could not simply reappropriate the power for their own purposes as Bertilak did in _Sir Gawain_, for by the Fourteenth Century, power was already diffused by the rise of the mercantile class, the growth of the cities and the shift in peasant labor. Finally, we know that the traditional Christian doctrine, which the Gawain poet suggests as the answer, is itself being tested by the new social structure which did not grow out of it, as feudalism did, and so does not fit so neatly. This perspective makes _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_ a nostalgic tale where religion held all the answers and the old system held all the power.

Bibliography

De Roo, Harvey. "Undressing Lady Bertilak: Guilt and Denial in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." The Chaucer Review 27 (1993): 305-24.

Fisher, Sheila. "Taken Men and Token Women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." Seeking the Woman in Late Medieval and Renaissance Writings: Essays in Feminist Contextual Criticism.. Ed. Sheila Fisher and Janet E. Halley. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1989. 71-105.

Fries, Maureen. "The Characterization of Women in the Alliterative Tradition." The Alliterative Tradition in the Fourteenth Century Ed. Bernard S. Levy and Paul E. Szarmach. Kent: Kent State University Press, 1981. 25-45.

Green, Richard. "Sir Gawain and the Sacra Cintola." English Studies in Canada 11 (1985): 1-11.

Gold, Penny Schine. The Lady and the Virgin: Image, Attitude, and Experience in Twelfth-Century France. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.

Hamilton, Ruth. "Chivalry as Sin in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." University of Dayton Review 18 (1987): 113-17.

Kamps, Ivo. "Magic, Women, and Incest: The Real Challenges in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 1(1989): 313-36.

Morgan, Gerald. "The Action of the Hunting and Bedroom Scenes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." Medium Aevum 56 (1987): 200-16.

Warner, Marina. Alone of all Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1976.

The Role of Women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Annotated Bibliography

Lili Arkin

De Roo, Harvey. "Undressing Lady Bertilak: Guilt and Denial in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." The Chaucer Review 27 (1993): 305-24.

De Roo argues that Gawain was enjoying his 'luf-talk' with Bertilak's wife so much that it makes him too attached to life. He draws a connection between the sexual temptation in the bedroom scenes and the acceptance of the girdle.

Fisher, Sheila. "Taken Men and Token Women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." Seeking the Woman in Late Medieval and Renaissance Writings: Essays in Feminist Contextual Criticism. Ed. Sheila Fisher and Janet E. Halley. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1989. 71-105.

Fisher presents a feminist perspective which demonstrates that Morgan, and the other women in the story, are deliberately marginalized because they represent an external threat the male dominated social order of chivalry.

Fries, Maureen. "The Characterization of Women in the Alliterative Tradition." The Alliterative Tradition in the Fourteenth Century. Ed. Bernard S. Levy and Paul E. Szarmach. Kent: Kent State University Press, 1981. 25-45.

Fries shows that the characterization of women in the Alliterative Tradition is not confined to that of the romantic heroine but presents a variety of female archetypes and richly drawn characterizations.

Green, Richard. "Sir Gawain and the Sacra Cintola." English Studies in Canada 11 (1985): 1-11.

Green suggests that the poet's use of a girdle as a symbol may be related to the apocryphal story of the Virgin Mary's gift of the girdle to Doubting Thomas at the Assumption. He details the ironies it suggest in the story.

Gold, Penny Schine. The Lady and the Virgin: Image, Attitude, and Experience in Twelfth-Century France. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.

In Chapter Three, Gold looks at the relationship of the Virgin Mary to other women in Medieval religious iconography and concludes that the Virgin Mary's image is unique among women.

Hamilton, Ruth. "Chivalry as Sin in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." University of Dayton Review 18 (1987): 113-17.

This article suggests that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight presents a broad critique of aspects of chivalry such as Gawain's attention to form over substance and his confusion between chivalry and religion.

Kamps, Ivo. "Magic, Women, and Incest: The Real Challenges in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 1 (1989): 313-36.

Kamps examines some of the disruptive influences and anxieties facing Arthur's Camelot--specifically women, magic, adultery, and incest--with Morgan representing a trope for all the ills.

Morgan, Gerald. "The Action of the Hunting and Bedroom Scenes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." Medium Aevum 56 (1987): 200-16.

Morgan argues that a moral struggle is suggested by the juxtaposition of the hunt scenes and the bedroom scenes, with the Lady in the role of the hunter and Gawain as the hunted.

Warner, Marina. Alone of all Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1976.

Warner's book details the special importance of the Virgin Mary throughout Christianity and explores her religious and secular meaning. She discusses such things as the Church's attitude toward virginity, the role model of the Virgin martyr, the Virgin's relics, and her role as an intercessor with God.

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