Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Paperback(2nd ed.)

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‘Be prepared to perform what you promised, Gawain;
Seek faithfully till you find me …’


A New Year’s feast at King Arthur’s court is interrupted by the appearance of a gigantic Green Knight, resplendent on horseback. He challenges any one of Arthur’s men to behead him, provided that if he survives he can return the blow a year later. Sir Gawain accepts the challenge and decapitates the knight – but the mysterious warrior cheats death and vanishes, bearing his head with him. The following winter Gawain sets out to find the Knight in the wild Northern lands and to keep his side of the bargain. One of the great masterpieces of Middle English poetry, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight magically combines elements of fairy tale and heroic sagas with the pageantry, chivalry and courtly love of medieval Romance.

Brian Stone’s evocative translation is accompanied by an introduction that examines the Romance genre, and the poem’s epic and pagan sources. This edition also includes essays discussing the central characters and themes, theories about authorship and Arthurian legends, and suggestions for further reading and notes.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140440928
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/30/1959
Series: Penguin Classics Series
Edition description: 2nd ed.
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 68,327
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Bernard O'Donoghue is a Fellow in English at Wadham College and a noted Irish poet.

Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition 7(2)
Introduction 9(12)
Fit I
Fit II
Fit IV
'The Common Enemy of Man' (an essay on the Green Knight)
Gawain's Eternal Jewel' (an essay on the moral nature of Gawain)
The Poem as a Play (performed at Newcastle, Christmas 1971)
The Manuscript
Theories about the Poet
The Pentangle and its Signifiance
Notes on Arthurian Matters 150(6)
Extracts from the Original Poem 156(3)
Bibliographical References in the Text 159(2)
Bibliographical Suggestions for the Student 161(2)
Notes 163

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Dierckx More than 1 year ago
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. The text is a medieval English dialect. 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. That could be an indication that some scholars are right when they say that the Green Knight is a symbol for the reviving of Nature after the winter. There is a parallel between this symbolism and Gawain who's becoming more mature as the story unfolds. Throughout the story he's tempted in many ways to betray his vow of chastity and loyalty to the Virgin Mary, and near the end of the story he's tempted into cowardice. After all is said and done Gawain has a more realistic view on knighthood. He becomes adult and reaches a new stage in his life just like the revival of Nature by the Green Knight. One of the things I like in this medieval romance are the hunting scenes described very vividly and in great detail. It starts with a description of the animal they want to hunt down: its strong and weak points. During the chase it is as if you can hear the horns blow and the shouts of the hunters, the barking of the hounds and the grunting of the wounded animal and it ends with the cutting of the meat after the bowels are given to the hounds as a reward. Bernard O' Donoghue has done a very fine job in translating this little masterpiece of medieval literature. It's a vivid and a very readable verse translation of this engrossing adventure.
TheDivineOomba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. This is good stuff, but not written for a modern audience. I found myself trying to figure out what the motivation of Gawain is. Once I figured exactly what chivalry is, everything became much clearer.As for the other stuff in this book, namely the translators notes and essays, I found myself enjoying them. Mr. Stone has a tone that is very English, very polite, and very condescending. I love how he can agree with one scholar while dismissing another in the the next sentence. Best of all, he knows what he is talking about. I found the extra stuff to be very illuminating although a bit wordy.
Bobobones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed how this book was a poem, it was in verse but when you read it you don't get caught up in the rhyme and rhythm. When i was reading this book, because its told in third- person form, and i imagined the author was some sort of philosopher because there are times where there are parts that sound like something you would find in a quote book, and it is very descriptive and well worded. though in the middle of the book, it was a little hard for me to follow what was going on. The only way I understood what I was reading was when I read out loud. This story itself is great though. It has good moral values, but it has (just a little bit) goriness.
cmbohn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm so glad I got a chance to read this one. It took a while, but it was totally worth it. I love this story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing translation and an amazing story. Read it for a British lit class as a (cultural) compare/contrast to Beowulf and I was blown away.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed it...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed it....but a conversation with a beheaded guy is weird, yes?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I reaed this story as a child,I loved it then and now.
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