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How to Writer a Sir Gawain Research Paper

The heroic ideal is often expressed differently in many poems and stories in literature term papers. This research paper topic suggestion will show you how to write a Sir Gawain research paper that examines the treatment of the heroic ideal in the epic English poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was written in the latter part of the fourteenth century. The presentation of heroism is very different for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. You may consider several topics such as the treatment of women or the place of chivalry. Custom literature term papers are Paper Masters specialty and we can help you with the complexity of the topic of the heroic ideal in Sir Gawain.

How to Choose a Specific Topic for Sir Gawain

Sir Gawain Research Paper Picture

A great topic for a Sir Gawain research paper is to compare and contrast and to identify similarities and differences in the heroic ideal of the Green Knight verses Sir Gawain.
This examination will demonstrate that the Green Knight standards of heroism included natural consequences and courage, while Sir Gawain’s heroic ideals relied on principles of duty and morality.  The author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is unknown. However, the text of this fourteenth-century romantic poem centers on Sir Gawain’s promise to the Green Knight, Sir Gawain’s errors, his eventual fall due those errors, and his subsequent redemption. In many respects, the heroic ideals that are listed in a Sir Gawain research paper are opposite those of the Green Knight. While Sir Gawain views himself as a hero because he is a member of the Round Table, he also questions his heroism by those same standards of knighthood and chivalry. In many respects, the standards of heroism that Sir Gawain uses are religious in nature. That is, they promote his duty to religious ideals, rather than to his ability to save other people from a natural evil, such as a dragon. Moreover, Sir Gawain is an imperfect hero, who has many adventures but also makes moral mistakes.

Research Paper Topic Example for Sir Gawain

Your Sir Gawain research paper should show that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is set up to be the classic example of chivalrous virtue verses courtly love. Sir Gawain displays all the virtues of a loyal and dutiful knight: courtesy, valor and piety; yet he is tempted continually by the lure of love. The author of Sir Gawain uses the tool of symbolism throughout his journey to provide the landscape for the ill-fated juxtaposition of chivalry and courtly love for Sir Gawain.

The Knight’s journey provides the test of his virtue and the coquette is the temptation of courtly love that is laid before him. The coquette is an obvious example of this paradox while other sections of Sir Gawain are much more symbolic. While at Bercilak's castle, the coquette enters Gawain's room and begins seducing him or rather, to "teach by some tokens the true craft of love." Gawain refuses her temptations twice and then finally accepts the finally accepts the green sash under the guise that it will protect him from death.  Sir Gawain does not pretend to be ignorant of what he has done.  Again, displaying Knightly virtue and having the courage to face his wrong-doing, Gawain rides into his beheading wearing the bright green sash "against the gay red" mirroring the giants blood "bright on the green".  As his penance, he gives the sash a place of honor, hanging from his right shoulder and tied at his left side. The sash will serve, not only to lower his pride, but also as a symbol to remind him of past "cowardice and coveting."

Less obvious is the complex interplay in Sir Gawain which revolves around Sir Gawain’s journey that was meant to test his ability to suppress his sexual desires and his ability to fulfill and keep the chivalrous code.  By proving that he is able to keep his sexual desires in check, Sir Gawain proves he is a man and a warrior – fulfilling the chivalrous code.  It is important to remember that this test of chivalry is a hero's task and is spiritual rather than physical. This concept of heroism is voiced by Bertilak by stating Sir Gawain is "the most perfect Paladin on Earth". Jill Mann agrees and claims, "in referring both to his own challenge to Arthur's court and to his wife's temptation of Gawain: The trial both tests and enhances value".

In truth, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight also warns of the dangers of chivalrous love.  It can be a brutal bargaining table, as demonstrated from the first day that the Lady converses with Sir Gawain, she is measuring his value as a lover.

For were I worth the whole of woman kind, and all the wealth in the world were in my hand, And if bargaining I were to bid to bring myself a lord- With your novel qualities, knight, made known to me now, Your good looks, gracious manner and great courtesy, All of which I have heard of before, but here prove true- No lord that is living could be allowed to excel you.

And Gawain replies:

Indeed, dear lady, you did better,' said the knight, 'But I am proud of the precious price you put on me, And solemnly as your servant say you are my sovereign. May Christ requite it you: I have become your knight.

However, the Lady softens the next day and claims that, “Since the choicest thing in Chivalry, the chief thing praised, is the loyal sport of love, the very lore of arms”.  Further allusion to the dangerous nature of chivalry is the symbolism between the bedroom scenes and the hunt scenes. The poet is careful to point out that while the men are out bravely hunting, following the explicit rules of the hunt and led by the Lord, Sir Gawain is lying in bed, disobeying the rules of chivalry and being tempted by the Lady. He is stepping outside the bounds of societies rules and mores and daring to let down the concept of chivalry and the foundation in which the ideals of the noble warrior and Christian were based upon in Medieval time.

Thus the dynamic of chivalry and courtly love is a complex and challenging one.  Sir Gawain illustrates it brilliantly by being tempted by woman and held steadfast by the notion of chivalry.  Society in the Fourteenth Century posed many challenges politically, socially, and structurally.  A Sir Gawain research paper illustrates the struggle with the past ideals and the future Christian ideals that pervaded in the next century.  Chivalry was being challenged and the poet called to mind the struggle of man against human passions to fit the ideal of courtly love.  

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