Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Part 1 Summary

The poem opens with the short glance at the mythological past of Britain. As Romulus built Rome, Ticious built Tuscany, so did Brutus build Britain. Then the author introduces King Arthur, the Britain's greatest leader, representing him as the most courteous kings of all and mentions that he would like to tell the extraordinary story that happened in his time.

The story itself begins with the description of the feast at King's Arthurs court, where all the kings' men gathered in order to celebrate the New Year. Those are the best lords of all, the famous Knights of the Round Table. King's nephew Gawain and Queen Guinevere are seated in the privileged position, near the King. The celebration lasts for fifteen days, and the author makes the detailed description of their feast, the lavishness of food, drinks and the luxury of the surrounding. King's Arthurs guests are in high spirits. They exchange gifts, kisses and play games. When the dinner at the New Year's Eve is served, the king introduces a game. He refuses to eat until someone tells him a marvelous story about ancient heroes or someone's feat. Suddenly, the mirth is interrupted with the entry of an uninvited guest who leaves the guest speechless. His appearance itself is intimidating as he looks unearthly with not only green clothes, but hair and horse also. Nonetheless, he is the most handsome and masculine knight anyone has ever seen, taller than all other knights in the court, with broad shoulders, long hair and beard. Greeting no one and waiting for no permission to speak, he demands to see "the governor of this company." While guests marvel about his presence, King Arthur does not hesitate to speak and invite this superhuman to join their feast. The Green Knight refuses the invitation and says he has come in peace in order to inspect the great court he has heard about, demanding to be the part of the game. King Arthur spots the potential danger and informs The Green Knight that he will certainly have a fight if that's the reason of his visit, but the Green Knight replies that no one present there is fit to fight with him, calling them "beardless children." Instead, he requests to play a game in which the best among them will strike him with his own weapon, and if he won, the knight would let him keep the weapon (the axe). On the other hand, if the Green Knight won, the courtier would have to find him and take a blow from him precisely one year and a day later. This weird proposal silences the entire court again, while King Arthur steps forward to defend his honor and the honor of his courtiers. Just as he prepares to attack the Green Knight, his nephew Gawain steps in and applies as a volunteer for this venture, stating "I am the weakest, I know, and feeblest of wit;" The court agrees that he is the best fit and so Gawain takes the axe and recapitulates the terms The Green knight has given. He wants to know his name, where to find him, but the Green Knight's answers deepen the mystery more than it reveal any useful information. He says that he is known by other knights and will be easy to find when the time comes. The Green Knight then exposes his neck and Gawain decapitate him in one fierce swing. The Green Knight's head fells to earth and the guests roll it with their feet away from the body. But the body stands up still, as if nothing happened and to everyone's astonishment runs forward fiercely through the people to pick up the head. He then holds it by the hair, turns it toward the people and starts speaking. The scene is so weird that many of guests think they have lost their mind. The Green Knight addresses Gawain saying to be prepared to get his blow when the time comes if he doesn't want to be called a coward. He then rushes through the door and vanishes, leaving the king and Gawain to roar in laughter. The king admits that he has indeed seen a marvel and can go to his dinner now, while Gawain insists to hang the Green Knight's axe in a visible place on the wall so that everyone can gaze at it with wonder.

The First part ends with author's warning to Gawain to take care and to "blench not for the pain to prosecute this adventure that thou has taken on hand," clearly implying that this is not the end of the bloodshed.

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