The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Reed, Thomas L., Jr. "'Bo[th]e blysse and blunder': Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Debate Tradition." 23 (1988): 140-61.
The Pearl-Poet built Sir Gawain and the Green Knight on a dialogic structure that suggests the poem's affinities with the debate tradition. That the poet does not reach any real conclusions does not disqualify the poem as a debate, since many debate poems do not reach resolution. The poet presents events from many angles. Gawain's use of various magical defensive devices suggests a dialogue between chivalry and Christianity. Given sources and analogues like the Owl and the Nightingale, Winner and Waster, the "Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie," the Parliament of the Three Ages, and Ressoning betuix Age and Yowth, readers may see the poem as a series of arguments between youth and age, spring and winter, life and death. Gawain's experience with Lady Bercilak brings to mind the débat amoreux. Gawain is also tried in verbal argument. Other poems grouped with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Patience, show similar debate structures. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is most likely a kind of recreation, as demonstrated by the Christmas games of Arthur's court.