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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 3 Aug 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (3 Aug. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140424539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140424539
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 0.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 170,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

We know the "Gawain Poet" was a contemporary of Geofrey Chaucer's. He appears to have been the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Patience, and Cleanness; "he" may also have composed Saint Erkenwald.

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


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 4 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
Middle English is a diverse collection of different dialects and styles, when it comes to literature. At the same time that Chaucer was writing in the southeast of England, with good command of French and Italian poetic sensibilities, there was a strong tradition in the north and west country of alliterative poetry, the kind that owed as much to the Old English forms of verse and use of language as to the new influences post-Norman Conquest-wise. Among the products of this time and place, the anonymously composed 'Sir Gawain and Green Knight' is one of the most outstanding.
This poem has all the hallmarks of being a work of many influences - it has the heroic aspects that one might expect from Old English epics such as Beowulf; it has a decided romantic streak reminiscent of French and Norman influences; it has virtue and church/Christian overlaying influences that come from Latin and ecclesial sources; it has magical and mystical ideas that are most likely Celtic in origin. Perhaps more like a tapestry, the various strands of influence are woven together into a glorious pattern that stands as a towerig achievement of the synthesis of language that Middle English achieved between its Germanic and Latinate streams.
Gawain's story is a very popular one. The most virtuous of the Round Table knights, his bravery and his resourcefulness at seeking the Green Knight, the annual challenger at the court of Arthur, is legendary. Gawain's small fault (and indeed, Gawain was portrayed as a virtuous human, but human nonetheless) warrants a very small penalty, but he is deemed upon reporting back to Camelot that he has brought honour upon the whole fellowship of knights.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 8 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
Sir Gawain is a C14th poem written by an unknown contemporary of Chaucer. Unlike Chaucer, who is influenced by Latin, French and Italian literature, this poem recalls the old Norse and Viking sagas although it is set, at least initially, at Camelot.

Combining elements of chivalric epic, romance, and morality tales it tells of Gawain's challenge by the Green Knight, and the moral testing of his knightly valour and virtue.

Vivid, lyrical, funny and moral all at the same time, it had a profound influence on later poets, specifically Spenser in his Faerie Queene.

This Brian Stone translation into modern English is old but still my favourite for anyone not comfortable with the original old English.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jan Dierckx on 4 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback
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.

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.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Oct. 2003
Format: Paperback
Having had an english teacher obsessed with medieval literature we all thought we would be forced to plough through Chaucer in old english. We were pleasantly surprised when we were handed a copy of this book. Four years later its still a staple of my holiday reading and has a permanent place on my bookshelf.
The language is beautiful, I enjoy reading passages out loud and the story is a rival to the other Arthurian romances, with a decidedly more sexy damsel and a very very bizarre husband!. I would throroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys interesting tales and beautiful resonant language
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My Gordon/Tolkien edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is nearly a quarter of a century old now, covered with pencil notes and getting a bit brown and dog-eared. I thought that it was high time that I invested in a good clean reading copy. This Manchester University Press edition by Barron serves that purpose very well.

A Modern English prose translation is provided opposite, but note that there is little in the way of scholarly analysis therein. There is a brief introduction and a synopsis, and some brief end notes over a few pages pertaining to particular lines of the poem itself, but oddly no Middle English glossary.

Any serious student would probably be advised to get hold of the Gordon/Tolkien work, though it's possible that other texts with a proper scholarly analysis plus glossary have appeared in the interim which I don't know about.
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