Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Bertilak’s Wife Character Analysis

A beautiful lady who tempts Gawain on the three days that Bertilak is out at the hunt. She comes to his bedroom each day and procures kisses, using her wit to manipulate Gawain. It is later revealed that she acted under her husband's and the old sorceress Morgan Le Faye's instructions.

Bertilak’s Wife Quotes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Sir Gawain and the Green Knight quotes below are all either spoken by Bertilak’s Wife or refer to Bertilak’s Wife. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Chivalry Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the W. W. Norton & Company edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight published in 2008.
Lines 1126-1997 Quotes

for when tales of truthful knights are told
in both title and text the topic they describe
is how lords have laid down their lives for love,
endured for many days love's dreadful ordeal
then vented their feelings with avenging valor
by bringing great bliss to a lady's bedroom –
and you the most notable of all noble knights,
whose fame goes before him ... yes, how can it follow
that twice I have taken this seat at your side
yet you have not spoken the smallest syllable
which belongs to love or anything like it.

Related Characters: Bertilak’s Wife (speaker), Sir Gawain
Page Number: 1514-1524
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage,the mysterious Lady Bertilak talks to Sir Gawain. Not for the first time, the Lady and Gawain are alone--Bertilak is outside, leaving Gawain to his own devices. The Lady seems to be flirting with Sir Gawain pretty heavily: she teases him about being such a famous, renowned knight (not really true, as a matter of fact), and yet knowing nothing of love. It's as if the Lady, having tried straightforward seduction, is now trying to goad Gawain into kissing her by questioning his heroism and his manhood. The middle section of the poem is all about temptation: it would be so easy for Gawain to give into his obvious desire for the Lady, and yet he doesn't, at least not entirely.

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Bertilak’s Wife Character Timeline in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The timeline below shows where the character Bertilak’s Wife appears in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 491-1125
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
His host leads Gawain into a private chamber. The host's wife, the lady of the house, desires to look at Gawain, and comes out of her quarters, followed... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
...music and meals served in order of importance. Gawain particularly enjoys the company of the lady of the house. This holiday spirit carries on for three days. On the last night... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
...to the lord's suggestion that he sleep late the next day and eat with the lady of the castle, while the lord and knights hunt. Furthermore, the host suggests a game... (full context)
Lines 1126-1997
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
...in bed in the morning, until he hears a noise at door. It is the lady of the house. She enters and comes towards him. He feigns sleep, but when she... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
The lady teases Gawain for sleeping so deeply and when he asks permission to rise and more... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
The lady says that if she could choose a husband again, she would choose Gawain. Gawain thanks... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
...boldly rides after it. Meanwhile, Gawain begins his day in bed as before and the lady visits him. She teases him again, asking him to remember what he learnt about kissing.... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
They talk at length about love. The lady wonders how such a knight as Gawain never talks about love, it being the most... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
...the spoils to Gawain, who exchanges them for the two kisses he won from the lady. The company feasts and Gawain enjoys the company of the lady, neither completely indulging nor... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
...evades capture, but is eventually pulled down by the lord and his hounds. Meanwhile, the lady wakes Gawain from nightmares about the Green Knight. She kisses him and they talk happily,... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
The lady asks if Gawain has a sweetheart but he denies it. She takes another kiss and... (full context)
Lines 1998-2531
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
...saving him from the first two strokes in accordance with Gawain’s honest exchange of the lady’s kisses on the first two days of the hunt. The Knight explains that on the... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
Gawain refuses the invitation but sends his wishes to both the old and the young ladies. He curses the deceitfulness of women, listing the important men of history that have... (full context)