Although there are not very many female characters in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, or any of the other literature discussed this semester, the small roles the females play impact Gawain’s quest throughout the story. There are three main females in this story; Queen Guinevere, the young lady and the old lady. Guinevere is the queen of Gawain’s castle and she is important to him but she does not have a very much interaction with him before his journey. The second two ladies he meets at the castle he stops at on his way to the battle and they have more of an impact on him and they change the direction of the path he was headed down.
The young lady impacts his journey much more directly than the older lady does but these three ladies all have an impact on him. For the most part, their interactions with him cause trouble for him and doom him along the way. When the two ladies at the Lords castle are introduced, we can see they are very different. Gawain describes the lords lady as so young, fresh, elegantly dressed and even “more beautiful than Guinevere” (Winny ,53), this is the first bad sign because Gawain should never admit someone is more beautiful than his own queen.
When both ladies are approaching Gawain, “another lady who was older than she was leading her by her left hand” (Winny, 53). This is the second sign that something bad may occur because of this young lady; during the era that the book is written, everyone knows that it is frowned upon to be left handed, it is a symbol she may be possessed by the devil. The young lady may be evil, a representation similar to the devil. The third negative aspect related to this young lady was when she carefully snuck into Gawain’s chamber and proceeded to try to kiss him, he refused t first but she was persistent and eventually got her kiss, along with 2 more days of kisses.
Gawain only agreed to these because she was challenging his manhood, saying he is not the real Gawain if he wouldn’t kiss a lady. He knew better and knew he should not kiss her but he did anyways, she is changing the way he does things and it is causing him to get into trouble. Gawain had already made a contract with the lord but later made a contract with the lady. She had given him a green girth and he was not going to follow the contract with the lord and tell him.
He was doing this because she promised it would protect him in the battle against the green knight but it was once again causing him to do something he didn’t want to have to do, lie to the lord. When Gawain went to fight the green knight he did not take his shield with the image of virgin Mary instead he had transferred his faith from something properly religious that could actually benefit him to something materialistic given to him by the young lady. * The interactions he has had with this lady were never good for him, it has always ended with him falling deeper and deeper into a downward spiral.
She never did anything that benefitted Gawain to allow him to do better for himself on his quest. FLOW The second lady in the castle Gawain visited was also a burden for his success. Although there was not as much interaction with this lady as there was with the young lady, there were still some negative aspects to her character that clash with Gawain’s quest. Gawain said she was “respectfully treated by the assembled knights” (Winny, 53) and “the ancient lady sits in the place of honour” (Winny, 57).
This means she is higher up in the hierarchy of the castle because during the time period, women were never very important so that shows she has significance to this castle. Which in turn may result in significance for Gawain’s quest. We later find out her name is Morgan Le Faye and she is actually Gawain’s aunt and king Arthurs half-sister, which would make us believe she would want to do something in order to help her nephew on his quest but it was actually her who created this whole game. The game that could potentially kill her nephew, all because she wanted to have some good laughs and scare queen Guinevere to death.
She has a lot of power over everyone and potentially has an impact on Gawain’s success or fall. Morgan is one of the few female characters but she is trying to doom her own family members. Although these two characters don’t have very much interaction throughout the book, she impacts his journey a lot but very indirectly which causes more trouble for him. Arthur’s hall and the people inside are described during the first part of the story but when the characters are introduced, there are mainly two people talked about besides Arthur: Sir Gawain and Guinevere.
Guinevere is the queen of the hall and is very elegant. During their feast, Gawain was seated beside her. This represents that he is close to her, more of a loyal friend rather than just an aunt to him. Gawain is very respectful towards her, as he is with any lady. He has good manners and is very polite, especially when it comes to his queen, when he was talking about going on his quest from the green knight he made sure to check that “my liege lady were not displeased” (Winny, 21).
He did not want to upset someone with such authority but more importantly he didn’t want to let down this lady. Even though there is not very much interaction with the queen and Sir Gawain, she definitely impacts his journey and how he went about the quest. Right from the beginning of the story we see how important the role of a female character plays on his part. Gawain did not want to let her be disappointed or lose her husband so he volunteered himself for her own protection.
Again this is a more indirect interaction but because of Queen Guinevere he makes the decision to risk his life for others. She doesn’t ask him to do this directly but he knows it is the right choice. *MORE ABOUT HOW SHE CAUSED HIS DOWNFALL* Over the course of the book, Sir Gawain had three interactions with different females: Guinevere, the young lady of the castle and the old lady of the castle, Morgan Le Faye. Even though these may have been very subtle or very obvious interactions, they all impacted his journey in some way.
During this period in history, women usually had very little significance to anything that would happen, but these three women had a very significant impact on his quest. The results of the interactions with any of these female characters never turned out well and always seemed to cause trouble for Sir Gawain in the end. Whether these interactions were indirect or direct it seemed the female characters had all doomed him in some way and put a barrier on his success. These female characters did have some small contributions to his success