Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a poem that makes extensive use of alliteration. Alliteration is the repetition of initial sounds in a series of words, and it’s used throughout Sir Gawain to create a musical effect or to emphasize certain ideas.
For example, alliteration is used in lines like ” Sir Gawain…girt with green” to create a sense of unity between Sir Gawain and the color green. It’s also used in lines like “Gawain grasped the green Knight’s great axe” to emphasize the size and power of the Green Knight. Ultimately, alliteration is one of the key devices that makes Sir Gawain such an enjoyable and memorable poem.
The “Pearl Poet” wrote Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in England sometime during the late 1300s. This was also a time when knights, castles, and kings were real, not just figures in stories.
The poem’s hero, Sir Gawain, is a brave and honorable man who accepts several challenges from the Green Knight, also known as Lord Bertilak. Stephen Greenblatt writes that most experts in folklore consider the central story to be the “Beheading game.” This occurs often in French romances where someone with unusual powers offers to let his head be cut off if he can then cut off the other person’s head.
The alliteration in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight is not only abundant but also serves a purpose in the poem. Studies have shown that alliteration aids in the memorization of a text, which would have come in handy for audiences of the time who did not have access to the written word. In addition, alliteration was used as a tool to create a certain atmosphere or feeling within the poem. For example, alliteration is used extensively in Sir Gawain’s internal monologue as he faces the Green Knight, creating a sense of fear and trepidation within the reader.
While Sir Gawain and The Green Knight is certainly not devoid of other literary devices, alliteration is by far the most used and most noticeable. Alliteration is defined as the repetition of initial consonant sounds, and it appears in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight almost from the very beginning. In lines one and two of the poem, alliteration is used to describe the sound made by Sir Gawain’s horse as it “clattered” over the “cold stone floor.” This alliteration sets the scene for the rest of the poem and creates a sense of foreboding that Sir Gawain may be in for a difficult journey.
As Sir Gawain travels to Lord Bertilak’s castle, he notices that everything around him is eerily quiet and still. The alliteration in these lines creates a sense of unease and makes Sir Gawain’s journey seem even more daunting.
Sir Gawain finally arrives at Lord Bertilak’s castle, where he is met with a warm welcome and plenty of food and drink. However, Sir Gawain is still on edge, as evidenced by the alliteration in these lines. The “clinking” of the glasses and the “crackling” of the fire are seemingly innocuous sounds, but they serve to remind Sir Gawain that he is not in his own home and that he should be wary of the hospitality he is being offered.
The alliteration in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight reaches its peak in the final lines of the poem. Sir Gawain has just been struck by the Green Knight and is preparing to return the blow. The alliteration in these lines creates a sense of finality and suspense, as Sir Gawain’s fate hangs in the balance.
Sir Gawain ultimately emerges victorious from his encounter with the Green Knight, but not without learning a valuable lesson about humility and honesty. The alliteration in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight plays a vital role in conveying the themes of the poem and helps to create an immersive experience for the reader.
The long and difficult quest that Gawain goes on in the poem serves as an example of how a chivalrous knight would act when put into strange and mentally challenging situations. Sir Gawain changes into a more humble and mature man throughout Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,and the poet uses this transformation to highlight the unrealistic standards of the chivalric system within a Christian world.
Through the use of alliteration, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight criticizes the lack of realism in chivalry while also providing an enjoyable poem to read.
The alliterative quality of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight serves a two-fold purpose: first, it creates a more musical and flow-like feel to the poem, making it more enjoyable for the reader. Secondly, this poetic device is used in order to create a sense of foreboding and unease as Gawain begins his journey.
The repeated “g” sound at the beginning of many lines gives a harsh, guttural feeling that contrasts sharply with the lighter, softer sounds in words such as “gentle” or “gracious.” This creates a sense of unease and fear in the reader, as they are made to feel as if Gawain’s quest is not going to be the simple task that he initially believes it to be.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is not only an alliterative poem, but it is also full of enjambment. This means that there is often a lack of punctuation at the end of lines, causing the poem to flow more smoothly. However, this also serves to create a sense of unease in the reader, as they are not given any sort of pause or break between lines. This uninterrupted flow makes it difficult for readers to take a breath, and mirrors Gawain’s own journey, during which he is constantly moving forward and rarely given a chance to rest.
The alliteration and enjambment in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are two of the poet’s most important tools in order to create a sense of unease and foreboding in the reader. These devices make it clear that Gawain’s quest is not going to be an easy one, and that he will be forced to confront many challenges along the way. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a poem that uses alliteration and enjambment to create a sense of foreboding and unease, while also providing an enjoyable poem to read.