Kelly's Writing

Queens College

Sir Gawain in the Court vs. in Nature

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly Santana at 2:10 am on Tuesday, November 15, 2016

As I’m reading Nature and the Inner Man, I’m remembering all these moments in the play where great attention was paid on the clothes and appearances of certain characters like the Green Knight. The play is descriptive in telling what colors such characters are wearing and what colors they adorn. The hunting scenes were very detailed as well. We’re given a step by step description of how the hunters kill and gut the deer. Before reading Woods’ article, I didn’t understand the possible reasoning behind all this great detail and description.

Woods discusses this idea between being out in nature, which is wild and dangerous, versus the world that is indoors in the court. Gawain becomes a representation of the sheltered life of the court. Woods pays attention to the colors Gawain and the Green Knight wears and what they may symbolize. The Green Knight is decked out in mostly green- a color Gawain doesn’t wear until Part 3 when he puts on the green belt. The wild becomes a dark place once Gawain starts his journey. The spring leaves and forestry have died as winter beings once more. And once he finds the castle where he stays for a few days. Gawain is welcomed warmly and is retreated back into the safety and comfort the indoors offer.

The scenes that depict the deer and fox hunt are explicit and violent, meanwhile, Gawain is laying peacefully and safely in his bed, talking and laughing with the lord’s wife. This difference of what was going on outside versus inside the castle was interesting to note.

But eventually, Gawain must gear up and face the cruel outdoors as he tries to find the Green Knight, and nature will either kill him or accept him. But this time around, he wears the green belt as he treks through nature. Woods writes, “The green belt is Gawain’s final defense against indifferent nature and his own mortality, but he is also bearing nature’s colors” (220). Gawain starts to find a compromise between court and nature.

Woods provided me with further understanding of the details the play provide us with and why they may be there. These long and detailed descriptions of nature, clothing and color allows us to note the differences between the court and nature, and how Gawain is soon able to find a balance between the two.



   Brandon Hernandez

November 15, 2016 @ 4:31 pm

Clothing was one aspect of the text I took into consideration as well. I didn’t get as far as thinking of green as a way of Gawain representing the outside world but picked up on the outside vs inside perspective. I wonder if the castle being all white represents something about that same perspective?

The clothing aspect, I think, correlates with the supplemental reading of gestures I wrote on my blog. It’s amazing to see how much thought the poet put into this text.


   Caitlin Marziliano

November 15, 2016 @ 5:30 pm

Hi! It is really interesting to hear about the doors that Woods’ writing opened for you and how the emphasis on clothing and colors provided you with a different, more in depth reading of the text! Clothing and colors in any text are always important aspects to pay attention to and it is always funny to realize that we need to be reminded to notice them sometimes! I would completely agree with you that the careful descriptions of colors and clothing in this week’s reading are extremely important, but I would also encourage you to look for this meaning in other texts and even movies! I once went on a whole rant about the symbolism of the clothing and change of color in the animated movie Despicable Me and how meaningful it is. Surprisingly, all my friends were not as enthusiastic about it as I was. Weird, right? Anyway! Great post, I really liked your thinking and that it reminded me to pay more attention to the little details!


   Yazmin Estrada

November 15, 2016 @ 9:08 pm

Your focus and attention to the color in Sir Gawain is very interesting. There is a big importance placed on the color green as it is the color the Green Knight wears but also it’s the color of the green belt that Gawain believes will save him. I also want to comment on the contrast between the hunting scene and the activities Gawain takes a part in. A classmate of mine from a different class mentioned that there could actually be a similarity in the two scenes. Meaning Gawain could be the one being hunted in a sense because he is trying to be seduced by the lord’s wife, who then becomes the huntress. I really liked her interpretation of this scene and I thought I would share it since you brought up the same scene.



November 16, 2016 @ 5:27 am

Your post also made me think about the relationship between the color green and nature and the idea of rebirth and the cycle of life. I’m not sure if this is actually significant at all, but maybe it’s an answer to the questions that Gawain struggles with at the end. Maybe he can leave behind the stifling courtly life and be free in nature. Rather than a work within the romance and chivalric tradition, then, this poem would be more pastoral.


   Chani Rubenstein

November 21, 2016 @ 3:51 am

Hi Kelly! I agree that the colorlessness of the tale is a bit peculiar, if familiar. I was told by a professor of early British literature that very often, light and dark are the only descriptions of color. Slightly later works like those of Chaucer will also employ the color red. The color green in a middle-English work isn’t all that common. And it’s not just like the author wrote “the dude was green.” Rather, different shades of green are described in painstaking detail. It is very deliberate, and does not carry throughout the work, most of which does remain colorless. Are these works written without color because color wasn’t deemed important? I think that the more a person puts in about color, the less there is for me to imagine. I kind of like the ambiguity. It’s like a blank coloring book. I’m free to picture Gawain however I like. As long as he’s got rich clothing, “thick thewed thighs,” and a lot of hair. Thanks for your thought-provoking piece! Be well!



November 22, 2016 @ 4:03 pm

Your post made me think of the color of green symbolizing envy. This would kind of fit into our discussion from class because Sir Gawain was the hero that was able to not be a hero… if that makes sense. He wasn’t the most macho or clever of hero’s which maybe could lead to the envy that people felt about him…I’m pretty sure that Sir Gawain was in a series of stories so to prove this sort of theory I would have to look at all the works in accordance with the entire collection. I really liked your comparison of the hunt scene. I didn’t really pick up on the peacefulness of Gawain inside while the hunt outside was really violent. Could this be to upset what we take for granted? Usually nature is depicted as peaceful and the place where people go “find themselves” in these older stories…but that’s kinda more of an Americanist perspective and not a medieval one…thoughts?

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