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(Brittany)The Women of Gawain and the Green Knight

When looking back at the literature writings we have discussed earlier in the semester, we have noticed how women characters were very few and far between. When they were mentioned in these literature writings, they were background figures mentioned every now and then and not meant to be of much importance to the stories. But as we progress through the literature writings from the Middle Ages, it is all starting to change for the better. This week while reading Gawain and the Green Knight we have noticed some of these changes happening throughout the story for women characters.

The women character roles we have previously covered were mentioned only as mothers or brides of the men characters in the story. But in the literature writing Gawain and the Green Knight , the women’s roles have drastically changed from being ornamental figures to instrumental figures within the story. The women in this reading are depicted as having a major role in the way the story unfolds. Lady Bercilak and Morgan le Fay are introduced to us when Gawain enters a castle, he comes across in his journey to find the Green Knight. Lady Bercialk is the host’s wife and is described as being young, and beautiful and exquisitely dressed, while Morgan le Fay is described as being an older woman with some mystery to her as she is covered with clothing only allowing her lips and nose to be exposed. In his stay at this castle, he makes a deal with the host. The deal was for Gawain to relax and stay in bed for a few days while the host and his men will go out for a hunt and when they return, they will exchange what each has won for the day. Over the course of the three days Lady Bercilak enters Gawain’s room, tempting him and putting his virtues to the test. She uses her beauty and takes advantage of Gawain in order to control their interactions and he ultimately gives in and receives kisses from Lady Bercilak and her green garter that she promises is magical and will protect him from injury or death. We do not encounter Morgan la fay again until the end of the story when Gawain meets the Green Knight and receives the pay back that was promised to him from a year ago. After the Green Knight attempts to behead Gawain three times, this is when Gawain realizes that he gets away with only a scratch on the back of his head and the importance behind Morgan la Fays character is revealed. The Green Knight then reveals himself as Bertilak and how Morgan la Fay played a crucial role in why Gawain lives on. Bertilak is the servant of Morgan la Fay and she is the one who orchestrated all of the events starting a year ago when the Green Knight entered King Arthur’s castle. All of this was an attempt to try and scare Queen Guinevere.

After reading this story we can realize how much the women’s roles in literature writings have changed for the better. There are two main women characters we encounter in the story, and they have a major role in how and why the story happened. Lady Bertilak uses her wit and beauty to seduce Gawain and Morgan la Fay is the mastermind of all the events from the Green Knight to Gawain confessing his sins and living. This is crucial for women as a whole because women deserve recognition for being strong independent beings and for being capable of doing the things men can do. All beings should be treated equally no matter the color or gender. We are all capable of doing great things when we put our minds to it.



“Author Anonymous (c.1390) – Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Poetry In Translation | A. S. Kline’s Open Access Poetry Archive,

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