Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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The king of Camelot and husband of Guinevere. He is the model of a good knight and the uncle of Sir Gawain. At the outset of the poem, he is compared to the noble, mythological Trojan founders of Britain and is described as the most youthful, healthy, and bold of men. He is a true believer in chivalry, and he is loving to his nephew Gawain, who risks his own life to spare his king. When Gawain returns at the end, Arthur recognizes his heroism and the wisdom he has earned and orders the entire court to wear green bands in recognition of their own humility.

King Arthur Quotes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Sir Gawain and the Green Knight quotes below are all either spoken by King Arthur or refer to King Arthur. 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 1-490 Quotes

By Guenivere, Gawain
now to his king inclines
and says, "I stake my claim.
This moment must be mine.

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Sir Gawain, King Arthur, Queen Guinevere
Page Number: 339-342
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Sir Gawain, the young nephew of King Arthur, offers himself as a participant in the game with the Green Knight. King Arthur has just volunteered himself for the challenge, but just as the game is about to begin, Gawain volunteers to replace his king.

Why does Gawain volunteer? One could say that he's trying to save his king from the pain of being hurt or killed by the Green Knight; i.e., he's sure that whoever plays the Green Knight's game will lose, horribly. Therefore, Gawain might be sacrificing himself because he's one of the youngest and least valuable people at the court, and therefore not much of a loss (whereas Arthur's death would throw the whole kingdom into turmoil). Of course, Gawain is also trying to prove his worth in battle--standing up to the Green Knight is an excellent way to gain fame and a reputation for bravery.

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Lines 1998-2531 Quotes

"Call yourself good Sir Gawain?" he goaded,
"who faced down every foe in the field of battle
but now flinches with fear at the foretaste of harm.
Never have I known such a namby-pamby knight.
Did I budge or even blink when you aimed the axe,
or carp or quibble in King Arthur's castle?

Related Characters: The Green Knight (speaker), Sir Gawain, King Arthur
Page Number: 2270-2275
Explanation and Analysis:

The Green Knight is about to strike Sir Gawain's neck with his axe. But instead of striking, he stops and makes fun of Sir Gawain for flinching. Gawain has pretended to be a good, strong knight--but, according to the Green Knight, he's just a coward, the same as his peers in King Arthur's court. The Green Knight uses the moment to praise himself for his own courage and fortitude in the previous year: he didn't flinch when Sir Gawain struck him, so Gawain shouldn't flinch when the Green Knight strikes him. (Of course, the Green Knight must have known that he'd be fine even with his head on the floor, making his competition with Sir Gawain pretty unfair.) The passage has the effect of humanizing both Gawain and the Knight: they're both flawed--Gawain because he's frightened, and the Green Knight because he loves to gloat.

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King Arthur Character Timeline in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The timeline below shows where the character King Arthur appears in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-490
Chivalry Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
The poet describes the heroic lineage of King Arthur. From the fall of Troy, to the founding of Britain by Brutus, the country... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
...the beginning of the tale, it is Christmas time, and the court is in revelry. King Arthur is in his hall, surrounded by the many knights of the Round Table, feasting,... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
In such a state of excitement, Arthur insists he won’t eat until he hears some adventure story, or finds a jousting partner... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
...thinking that the Green Knight must be some kind of phantom or magical thing. But Arthur introduces himself, and shows the proper courtesy to the knight, as if he were one... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
...don’t answer, and the Green Knight laughs at them, insulting their supposed fame and fierceness. King Arthur’s pride is wounded and he jumps into action, calling the Green Knight’s words foolish.... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
So, Gawain kneels before the King, who gives a loving blessing and hands him the axe. Gawain boldly approaches the Green... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
King Arthur laughs and says that you can expect this kind of trickery around Christmas time,... (full context)
Lines 491-1125
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
The poet comments that the wonder of that night had pleased the merry King Arthur, but that the revelry was soon over, and what followed was a long year... (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
On Allhallows day near the end of autumn, the King throws a feast for Gawain, who is now a hero. The knights and ladies of... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
On Christmas day, the court enjoys more festivities, very like the ones at King Arthur’s court, with music and meals served in order of importance. Gawain particularly enjoys the... (full context)
Lines 1998-2531
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
...this sorceress who sent Bertilak to Camelot. Her reasons were to test the reputation of Arthur’s knights and to scare Guinevere to death with the gore of the axe stroke. Bertilak... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
...to Camelot, overcoming many adventures on the way. His neck wound heals and he enters Arthur’s court wearing the green girdle like a sash. He is greeted with joy and love.... (full context)