Moral Thrology in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Renascence 65 (3):146-162 (2013)
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Abstract

With reference to the virtue-ethics tradition, especially the system of St. Thomas Aquinas, this essay interprets the pentangle emblazoned on Gawain’s shield as symbolizing the perfection of interconnected virtues, and the Green Knight as figuring Christ in his martyrdom. Linking these two strands of meaning is the Thomist idea of fortitude, the virtue under particular scrutiny in the poem. Gawain fulfills the secondary part of fortitude, attack, while the Green Knight fulfills the primary part, endurance, and is identified with Christ. His axe, holly bob, and green coloration, and even his menacing aspect, all foster this significance.

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