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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical and human
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...
Published on 4 Jan 2006 by Kurt Messick

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Prose-Rendering of the Poem.
This kindle edition of Gawain and the Green Knight is just a prose-rendering of the original poem. Whilst it says it's by 'Anonymous' I think this is by Jessie Weston. If you're looking for a modern translation of the poem I can recommend Simon Armitage's modern-verse translation Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

This one only provides a useful re-telling of the...
Published 23 months ago by L.Marie


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical and human, 4 Jan 2006
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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. There is something magical about the Green Knight, however, and this can be seen as metaphor for the way in which temptation seems to have a magical power over humanity.
This is a great edition for those who want the original language text side by side with a good modern translation. There are also good notes and resources, too.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moral testing of the elements of chivalry, 8 Jan 2010
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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
5.0 out of 5 stars The dark Middle Ages and all that., 4 Feb 2008
By 
Jan Dierckx (Belgium, Turnhout) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Penguin Classics) (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. 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.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth a read, 23 Oct 2003
By A Customer
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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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant translation, full of life, 3 April 2006
Anyone who thinks reading medieval texts (in translation) is daunting, should dip into this book.
Brian Stone has translated 'Sir Gawain' brilliantly, keeping the alliteration of the original, but also keeping (or making?) the text accessible. The result is a poem that is vibrant and enthralling - the descriptions fascinating and detailed (for example the description of the lady on the third day or of the hunters taking apart the deer).
The story is set in King Arthur's time. One Christmas a green knight challenges the knights of the round table to a beheading game. Sir Gawain takes up the challenge and lops the green knight's head off. Nonplussed the knight rides away and Gawain must come to him in a year's time to bear the green knight's blow. Certain death, surely.
On his travels to find the green knight, Sir Gawain finds a castle where he is welcome by the castellan and invited to play a game. Both men will exchange their findings of the day. The lord goes out hunting, while back home his wife tries to seduce Sir Gawain. Of course, there is more to this game of hunting and seduction than meets the eye.
Can Gawain remain triumphant?
The book is complemented by a few essays on the topic of the book, which are mildly helpful and also contains a few excerpts from the original Old English, which I found very interesting, if only for the flavour.
This is a book I cherish and return to time and again (It's not long either).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars medieval poetry from Amazon: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, 4 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This blank verse translation of an anonymous 14th century poem is an easy read, with an interesting, surprising twist at the end.The chivalry and seduction aspects are easy to accept in modern terms, while the magic and motivation for the exchange of potentially fatal blows is harder to come to terms with. A most enjoyable read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good reading copy, 26 Aug 2010
By 
E. L. Wisty "World Domination League" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
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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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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical and human, 4 Jan 2006
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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. There is something magical about the Green Knight, however, and this can be seen as metaphor for the way in which temptation seems to have a magical power over humanity.
Do note: This is a review of the Penguin Classics 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' as edited and translated by Brian Stone, who also produced the Penguin Classics 'Medieval English Verse'. It has a wonderful introduction, as well as a series of essays following the translation of the poem. These essays include topics such as the significance of the Green Knight, the moral nature of Gawain, the way in which the poem can be and has been used as a play, Arthurian images, and speculation about the poet himself. There are also extracts from the original alliterative verses with the middle gaps.
There are also two bibliographies, one of texts mentioned in this book, and another for suggested readings for students. These are a bit dated now, as the latest impression of the book comes from the early 1980s, and none of the items on the list dates past the mid-1960s. There is also an extensive section of translation notes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It fascinates me!, 24 April 2014
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And if you're into medieval literature I should think it'll fascinate you too. It's a good story, so why not try a sample?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, 13 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Such a winderful tale. Puts today's writers to shame. This is real writing. The book has a hidden meaning. No! I shall not tell you. Read it and find it.
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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Penguin Classics)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Penguin Classics) by Bernard O'Donoghue (Paperback - 3 Aug 2006)
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