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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight a great epic written in fourteenth century Europe by the Pearl poet emphasizes the opposition of Christian love to Courtly love in the 13th century through the dilemma of Sir Gawain one of the great knights of the Arthurian round table By examining the women in the poem Gawains dilemma becomes a metaphor for the contrast of these two distinct types of love The poem looks upon the Virgin Mary as the representative of spiritual love obedience chastity and life Warner 9 In contrast Morgan le Fay and Bertilaks wife appear to be representing courtly love disobedience lust and death This conflict between courtly love and spiritual love demonstrates the drastically weakened religious values behind chivalry An interesting parallel to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the story of original sin in the Garden of Eden Gawains temptation correlates to the temptation of Adam which is rooted in the sins of the flesh The women in the story seem to accentuate the downfall of Gawain which mirrors the downfall of Arthurs court as well as mans fall from grace in the garden Originally the first duty of a knight was to be at the service of his church However with the rise of courtly love knights began to give their devotion to their mistress rather than God This elevated the churchs mistrust of women and the flesh The characterization of Bertilaks wife is not unlike that of Eve a temptress who would bring both happiness and despair to her man One interesting twist to this story is that like courtly love possession of power seems to be shifted into the hands of the women The wife of Bertilak operates unassisted against Gawain in the bedroom as the hunter and the aggressor The great feminine power in the story however comes from Morgan le Fay the evil stepsister of Arthur She is strong enough to move into
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