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In the Fourteenth Century Feudalism and its offspring chivalry were in decline due to drastic social and economic changes In this light Sir Gawain and the Green Knight presents both a nostalgic support of the feudal hierarchies and an implicit criticism of changes which if left unchecked will lead to its ultimate destruction I would suggest that the women in the story are the Gawain poets primary instruments in this critique and reinforcement of Feudalism By positioning The Virgin Mary as the singular female archetype representing spiritual love obedience chastity and life against Morgan and Bertilaks wife who represent the traditional female archetypes of courtly love disobedience lust and death the Gawain poet points out the conflict between courtly love and spiritual love which he and other critics of the time felt had drastically weakened the religious values behind chivalry As such the poem is a warning to its Aristocratic readers that the traditional religious values underlying the feudal system must be upheld in order to avert destruction of their way of life It is easy to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as a romantic celebration of chivalry but Ruth Hamilton believes that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight contains a more wide-ranging more serious criticism of chivalry than has heretofore been noticed 113 Specifically she feels that the poet is showing Gawains reliance on chivalrys outside form and substance at the expense of the original values of the Christian religion from which it sprang As she shows the first order of knights were monastic ones who took vows of poverty obedience and chastity The first duties the knights undertook the crusades were for the Church 113 The great divergence in the two came with the rise of courtly love in which the knights were led to great feats of bravery and uplift by devotion to a mistress rather than God Given the Churchs mistrust of women and the flesh the
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