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All About Gawain: Merlin 3x04 Gwaine
Gwen 1
zahrawithaz
Gawain is one of my favorite characters from the Arthurian legends. He’s one of the oldest core characters, and I love his evolution over the ages.

In the earlier Welsh material, Arthur’s sister’s son Gwalchmai son of Gwyar is Arthur’s best warrior, who never returns unsuccessful from a quest, and famed for his courtesy to guests and strangers. An early chronicler gives him joint credit with Arthur for keeping the Britons from collapsing and hints that he was murdered in mysterious circumstances. Geoffrey of Monmouth makes him an ideal warrior, hot-tempered but fearsome in battle, and one of Arthur’s chief commanders as well as his nephew (the son of Arthur’s sister Anna and a king named Loth, if anyone’s counting).

By the time Chrétien de Troyes wrote in the late 12th century, Gawain was well-established as Arthur’s best knight. His romance Erec et Enide opens with Arthur declaring he’ll revive the tradition of hunting the white stag, and Gawain protesting (correctly) that it’s a bad idea; Arthur, of course, ignores him (“That [you are right] I know well, but I will not give up my plan for all that, for the word of a king must not be contravened”). (This pretty much defines the Gawain-Arthur relationship in many romances.)

Gawain keeps up his role as wise counselor and ideal knight—“the touchstone of chivalry,” or the model by which other knights are judged—in this story (whose plot includes a melée) and others. But in later romances Chrétien makes him more and more seriously flawed, in order to make his heroes come off better. Eventually his Gawain becomes a comic figure whose light-hearted attachments to women make him morally inferior to characters like Lancelot or Perceval, and though Chrétien made him one of the original Grail Questers in his unfinished work, he implied that Gawain was too much of this world (and too fond of women) to succeed.

Other romance writers followed this lead, and soon Gawain starts to suffer from a medieval version of Star Trek’s Worf Effect. Because he was the standard of comparison for Arthurian knights, one easy way to exalt your hero was to have him best Gawain, either in a fight or in morality. When thirteenth-century French prose writers made the legends more explicitly Christian, they seize on the idea of Gawain as debased. Early parts of the Vulgate Cycle make him an outright villain, who murders without compunction and does not repent his sins.

But a different anonymous author made Gawain one of the most psychologically complex characters in the last part of Vulgate Cycle, a good friend to both Guinevere and Lancelot who tries to hide their affair from the king. When Arthur condemns Guinevere to be burnt at the stake for adultery, Gawain protests, telling Arthur he will never serve him again if he kills her.

Unfortunately, during his famous rescue of Guinevere, Lancelot accidentally kills Gawain’s beloved brothers. Gawain, devastated and obligated to avenge his family, pushes Arthur into a fruitless war against Lancelot that leaves the kingdom vulnerable to Mordred’s attack. Gawain ultimately dies from a wound dealt by Lancelot—though he lives long enough to repent and tell Arthur to make peace with Lancelot and fight together against Mordred. (Arthur, as usual, doesn’t listen). He later appears in a dream to Arthur, who learns that Gawain has been let into heaven for his kindness to the poor.

So by the mid-thirteenth century, Gawain could be the ideal knight, a figure of burlesque comedy, a murderous villain, a hot-tempered feuder, a wise and loyal counselor, or a unrepentent ladies’ man, all depending on the author’s preference. The justly famous Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight plays with these different traditions by having a main character, a woman who is trying to seduce Gawain, allude to them directly.

This version of Gawain manages to live up the the contradictory claims of ideal knighthood for a while—he’s too virtuous to sleep with her, but too courteous to rebuff her advances strongly—but when she dares him to live up to another reputation his defenses crumble. You can’t be who you claim to be, she tells him, because the real Gawain couldn’t be alone with a lady this long without kissing her.

“I will kiss at your command,” he replies.

In other words, Gawain has always been a meta character for the legends, one that invariably brings up questions of what it is to be a good knight. Recent interpretations often play (as the Gawain-poet did) with the tensions between the different versions of this character—making him a hero tragically flawed by the need for vengeance, or a good man defamed by a false reputation, or a knight who tries so hard to live up to so many different standards that he ends betraying them all.

This episode makes a great addition to the long tradition of Gawain as both the most noble of knights and the opposite, by making Merlin’s Gwaine is a knight who has sworn off the privileges of a knight to pass as commoner.

“Nobility is defined by what you do, not by who you are.” Almost every scene in this episode is concerned with class, and with eroding class distinctions. Lower-class (or apparently lower-class) characters are repeatedly recognized for qualities presumed to belong to the nobility—Mary the tavern-keeper comments on Merlin’s attractiveness, Gwaine calls Gwen a princess, Arthur speaks of Gwaine’s noble heart. There’s an obvious parallel between the bar brawl and the melee, which are class-specific versions of the same concept, a free-for-all fight.

There’s also a lot of dramatic irony—Gwaine, a knight by birth, is condemned for attacking two knights who are actually commoners in disguise. Likewise, fake!Oswald backs Uther’s assertion that a commoner must not attack a nobleman, despite the fact that the entire stolen-identity plot is driven by his attempt to violate this part of the knight’s code. (Class norms mean Dagr and his henchman can’t attack Arthur outright, but can kill him covertly in the guise of knights.)

An extended scene of the two imposter knights tormenting Merlin with unreasonable demands drives home Gwaine’s assertion that nobility lies in what you do, and his labeling them as thugs, an observation that is true on multiple levels. It also point out that Merlin, no matter how strong a wizard, can’t overcome his class status (and more to the point, can’t use magic publically without being executed). His very real vulnerability is key to a later scene in which Gwaine rescues him, and demonstrates his own true nobility.

Gwaine is a breath of fresh air on this show—not only because, as selenak  notes, he’s the first good guy to refuse outright to bide his time working for Uther (and implicitly acceding to the class structure). So far we’ve seen a lot of worthy commoners—Merlin, Gwen, Lancelot, Will—whose inner nobility the show recognizes, but we haven’t yet had a noble character who recognizes that these examples are not merely rare exceptions, and that rank does not indicate worth as a general principle. But Gwaine believes strongly that the entire commoner/noble distinction is bunk, and acts on his principles.

Getting to know Gwaine. Nor is his characterization as a boozy and roguish flirt, with strong inner principles, the only allusion to many contradictory Gawain stories. The episode hints that Gwaine is lying or misleading Merlin about his past—the camera makes too much note of the way Merlin stumbles over the inconsistencies in Gwaine’s story in the boot-cleaning scene, and the ring Gwaine wears looped around his pendant suggests further backstory. Already there seem to be different stories Gwaine can or does tell about his past, hinting at a more complex and contradictory character. There’s also a suggestion that Gwaine knows something about sorcery, from the way he quickly identifies the enchanted blades from description. I’m betting there’s more to learn about this character, since we know he’ll be back.

Although occasionally the hero of his own story, Gawain has most often functioned as a comparison character, one whose qualities cast those of other Arthurian characters in relief. He’s opposed to Lancelot (the two are sometimes viewed as champions for Arthur and Guinevere respectively), and there are a number of clunky parallels with the latter here—his apparent class, his attraction to Gwen, his banishment, the fact that Merlin reveals to him a secret hidden from his other friends. But there’s a much more interesting parallel between Gwaine and Arthur.

(There’s even a direct invocation of the medeival cliché in which a hero is drawn into an aborted combat with Gawain; here, Arthur concedes the contest, thus obtaining a moral victory by recognizing Gwaine’s worth and his own obligations to him.)

Future knight and future king. The episode begins with Arthur declaring, as he periodically does, that he’s going to put away his class privilege and pass as a commoner. For Arthur, this is a temporary measure, and he can’t maintain it long, quickly asserting his authority in the tavern.

In contrast, Gwaine has cast off his rank and class privilege permanently, as a way of life. In fact, he’s so committed to the principle of nobility transcending class (and disgust for his own background) that he refuses to divulge his identity even when it means suffering punishments from which his rank would otherwise exempt him. He not only cleans boots with Merlin and (ultimately) accepts banishment, but refuses to speak up even when Uther threatens him with execution.

It’s clear even at the end of the show that Arthur hasn’t quite come to terms with class equality (seeing Gwen and Gwaine as exceptional noble commoners, but being unwilling to change the rules for knighthood). This stands in clear contrast with a Gwaine who is willing to accept death rather than be accorded special privileges.

Then there’s the question of how each man intercedes on behalf of the less powerful. Arthur does so twice, first stepping in to protect Mary from the knife-wielding extortionist Dagr, later speaking up for Gwaine and persuading his father to commute a death sentence to banishment.

In both moments Arthur shows his nobility in both senses of the word. He’s right to stand up for a weaker party (and in Gwaine’s case, one to whom he owes his life), but the way in which he does it ultimately props up the entire system whereby some people are worth more, and have more rights, than others.

In both cases, he protects by asserting his own authority—acting like commander in the tavern, and drawing explicitly on his own class privilege in conversation with Uther. Gwaine deserves clemency in because “a knight’s word is his bond” and Arthur, a knight, has vouched for him. His actions help spare Gwaine’s life in the moment, but do nothing to erode the larger system of social inequity which has put it at risk in the first place.

Gwaine, in contrast, forever won my heart when he interrupts the two fake knights’ attack on Merlin and asks Merlin if he’s alright. A genuinely terrified Merlin clearly answers “No.” In his moment of intervention, Gwaine, by asking for Merlin’s read of the situation and permission to intervene, is re-establishing the idea that has been violated—that Merlin’s basic worth as a human being is equal to those of his tormenters.

I mention this scene because in my real-life experience, this is all too often where would-be rescuers wind up reinforcing the status quo and the powerlesness of those they meant to protect. Replacing a bad noble who gives orders with a good noble who gives orders does nothing to ameliorate the inequity inherent in the system.

This isn’t to say that Gwaine entirely sheds his privilege (no one can); his sword-fighting skills and perhaps his comfort breaking social norms come from having been raised with the privileges of nobility, if not the wealth.

Winning friendship and influencing shippers. As I said before, the idea that Gawain has an independent friendship with and loyalty to Guinevere is a pre-existing part of the legend, and I enjoyed the show’s nod to that here. The scene in which Gwen deflects Gwaine’s over-the-top romantic overtures is a delight: she’s completely self-possessed, he’s a non-stop supply of bad come-ons, and when he redeems himself by backing off she skillfully uses the moment to graciously acknowledge his obnoxious attentions as a compliment and put him neatly in his place.

I also particularly liked his last regretful look that he couldn’t succeed with such a hottie. Having random male characters not romantically linked to Gwen acknowledge her attractiveness is a step forward, and something the show has always done for Morgana, whose beauty has been commented on by Merlin, Arthur, Uther, Valiant, Alvarr, and others. I also liked that Gwen, very in character, later seeks out Gwaine to tell him that he did the right thing and that Arthur will one day repay him; her strong moral sense and commitment to supporting those who uphold it are further signs of her talent as a queen.

It’s notable how completely Gwaine’s relationship with Gwen parallels his bonding with Merlin in the scene where the latter puts the drunken fighter to bed. In both scenes, Gwaine makes over-the-top protestations of affection (“You’re the best friend I’ve ever had”), his new acquaintances makes an eye-rolling protects (“You seem to have quite a few”), and they laugh. This leads in turn to more genuine bonding over a real commonality—missing fathers, or concern for Arthur. (These parallels intensify the friendship vibes or the shippy ones, depending on your preference.)

In both cases, Gwaine shows genuine curiosity about Merlin and Gwen, an interest in figuring out how they feel and what’s important to them—and, as a result, is able to extract a secret from them. (It’s a bit sad to see how little it takes for Merlin or Gwen to give away more than they intend, because it implies Morgana or Arthur might have done the same with a little listening and concentration—on the other hand, it’s taken both of the servant characters this long to be this open.) His perspective, of course, skews what he finds—he doesn’t press Merlin on his father’s banishment once the story confirms his dim view of kings, and he relates Gwen’s care for Arthur to her rejection of him (rather than thinking she has limited tolerance for cheesy come-ons).

In a neat twist, Merlin divulges not his magic, but his truncated and mourned-for relationship with his father—a much more intimate detail than Lancelot obtained by merely observing Merlin do magic. Here Merlin is actually offering up a part of himself voluntarily, in a bonding way.

Gwen’s secret, of course, is the blazing torch she carries for Arthur, and in a long-overdue move this episode dwells on her feelings and their effects on her actions, not her effect on Arthur. Once Gwaine knows Gwen’s secret, their relationship grows noticeably warmer. Their last scene together implies that now, knowing he won’t hit on her, the usually reserved Gwen is more open; of course, dramatic irony ensures in that Arthur, who doesn’t know that mutual concern for him is basic to their bond, comes jealously to the opposite conclusion.

The view from the battlements. That final scene offers lovely views of the relationships in the Merlin/Arthur/Gwen/Gwaine quartet, all of which have been on display in this episode. (It’s nice to see Gwen and Merlin’s understated friendship on display when she goes to Merlin for help with Gwaine.) Along with showing the different levels of acceptance different character have toward the possibility of Gwaine as a future knight, it gives us a great conclusion to the various Merlin/Arthur moments in this episode.

These two of course start with the classic Arthur-ignoring-his-advisor moment, move to looking out for each other’s safety during the brawl, and then demonstrate their differences by their very different, and class-specific, takes on the mélée. Their later scene, in which Merlin tries to dissuade Arthur from participating, is a touching build on these earlier ones, recalling earlier banter but demonstrating the evolution of their relationship. It’s yet another example of Merlin trying to be more direct and honest with Arthur, and of Arthur trying to understand Merlin but jumping to the wrong conclusions.

When Merlin protests, Arthur responds with his usual sarcasm, but when that doesn’t work—Merlin doesn’t respond in kind—he switches to being more honest and direct himself, acknowledging Merlin’s opinion openly. It shows Arthur is starting to respond to Merlin’s different tactics, even without Gwen’s influence, and lays the groundwork for more work together. (Nor is it the only example of Arthur’s growth; Arthur also states bluntly that his father is wrong about banishing Gwaine.)

In their final scene, when Arthur shows himself still too hidebound in his attachments to class distinctions—unable to imagine breaching them for Gwaine, and to admit breaching them for Gwen—Merlin cleverly uses the Gwen argument to point out the inconsistencies between what Arthur says and what he wants. This is a great preview of Merlin as a future counselor, much effectively getting through to Arthur, who responds by shutting down the conversation, but in a playful way.

(It’s also a pleasure to see Arthur and Merlin roughhousing in a way that feels genuinely like affectionate boyish play, not an employer hurling blunt metal objects at his overworked employee.)

Meanwhile, in the stands…. Morgana does virtually nothing in this episode, except look surprised and speculative when it appears that Arthur, contrary to all expectations, might die in the mélée. Purely as speculation, I wonder if this is the moment she begins to seriously consider Arthur’s role in her plans, and what would happen if he died.

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Hee! Thanks! My reviews are always willing to marry for comment-love and recs! (Seriously, it is thrilling to know anyone is reading these when I post them weeks after the episode airs!)

And there are so many things to squee about in this episode. I do adore Gwaine, and the way he deals with his class privilege is part of it. I also adored all his interactions with the OT3.

Re the mystery, watch the boot-cleaning scene again. When Gwaine says his father treated his servants well, there's a moment where Merlin reacts, because based on their conversation the night before Gwaine didn't know his father. Gwaine's response is pretty clearly a dodge, and he quickly changes the subject to Merlin's father. I think there's more to the story.

I also think costuming Gwaine with just a pendant, or just a ring on a chain, could have been purely visual, but giving him both implies that there's a story attached to at the very least the ring. And I think the camera works hard to draw attention to those props--that's the reason for Gwaine's many shirtless and open-collar scenes.

(Well, okay, that's part of the reason. But beefcake and plot can go together!)

Did you know that in many versions Gawain is Morgause's son? Not that I think Merlin will go that route, but I couldn't help thinking how awesome it would be!

YAY! Gawain is my FAVORITE Round Table knight, so I love the backstory you've included that gives me more insight into him as a meta character. I was so pleased with how he was presented on the show and I basically love him forever. <3

I really appreciate what you said about Arthur v Gwaine and their approaches to standing up for people. It speaks to Arthur's sense of noblesse oblige that you keep mentioning and how that isn't so much about treating people equally as patronizing them. I don't really fault him for that because he's shown himself to be genuinely open to the viewpoints and opinions of the less privileged characters in a way characters like Morgana haven't (which has helped to facilitate the the progression of his relationships with Merlin and Gwen when both of them started out more comfortable opening up to each other than to him). So... he's still a standup dude, is what I'm trying to say, but his approach is so steeped in the system that privileges him.

ALSO, omg I love how self-possessed Gwen's become, more than I can possibly say. I watched that flirting scene so many times and I love the easy friendship they settled into - and Merlin/Gwaine as well, was just delightful. I have to say, despite the clunky parallels you brought up, I prefer Gwaine to Lancelot in pretty much all the relationships and situations involved. XP

Yes, Gawain is also my favorite, as is probably obvious from this (though I often have a soft spot for Kay, depending on the version), and I do love it when he's characterized in positive or complex-yet-positive ways. And of course I LOVE to talk about the different versions!

So... he's still a standup dude, is what I'm trying to say, but his approach is so steeped in the system that privileges him.

This is exactly what I was trying to say, more succinctly! I love Arthur's noble moments, and I completely understand all the advantages it gives story-telling structure; I just want us to remember this is a problematic approach in the real world.

To be fair, the problems with Arthur's approach are intrinsic to his role--he's a future king, not a future democratically-elected leader, and he'll eventually do the right thing by giving the right orders to the people, rather than giving them power themselves. But the conservative and unsatisfying "change the leader, not the system" approach made me surprised and excited to see Gwaine espouse a different way of dealing with one's privilege.

Re Gwen, I KNOW! The way she traps Gwaine into having to give up by saying that she likes that he knows when to give up is just perfect! (I too have re-watched that scene, almost as many times as the one when Gwen wakes up in her nightgown ready to get medieval on someone's ass.)

And I completely agree about Gwaine v. Lancelot--but then, I often dislike/am bored by Lancelot, so some of that is my prejudice. It takes a really compelling actor (and often a name-change and very specific characterization) to keep Lancelot from being dull. Here's hoping having Gwaine in the group will change dynamics when Lance returns--if what we've seen is anything to go on, Gwaine should pick up on Lance's feelings for Gwen (and maybe even that he knows something about Merlin) pretty quickly.

Yes, eee, I agree with this!

Gwaine, in contrast, forever won my heart when he interrupts the two fake knights’ attack on Merlin and asks Merlin if he’s alright. A genuinely terrified Merlin clearly answers “No.” In his moment of intervention, Gwaine, by asking for Merlin’s read of the situation and permission to intervene, is re-establishing the idea that has been violated—that Merlin’s basic worth as a human being is equal to those of his tormenters.

Yes, absolutely - for quite a small scene I found it really affecting.

Me too! It totally gave me a lump in my throat. Partly because of Colin's acting--he plays Merlin so scared and so convinced he won't be listened to, that he can only hoarsely whisper no--but it's just a knock-out scene. YAY Gwaine!

Gwaine, in contrast, forever won my heart when he interrupts the two fake knights’ attack on Merlin and asks Merlin if he’s alright. A genuinely terrified Merlin clearly answers “No.”

This and how he back downs immediately after Gwen's rebuff make me actually like Gwaine. Not just as a character (and I love him as a character) but as a person. I'd actually want to be friends with a guy who is that decent. That so rarely happens on TV.

Love all the background on Gawain in the legends. I only know Gawain and the Green Knight, so more info was awesome.

Yes, I know! He would make a good friend. Of course, you'd always get stuck with the bar tab, but hey....

Glad you enjoyed the background. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is actually a lot more fun when you can see how the poet is teasing the audience with all the things they know about the different versions of Gawain--hey, he'd the perfect knight! he'll do x! no, he's a total player! he'll do y!--and it really works well with its themes of moral ambiguity.

Just loving your reviews – loving the knowledge you bring to them and the insights you have.

*rolls around in this post*

I am at my sister's, but I will probably have moar to say later because I am the giantest Orkney fangirl.

I will very much look forward to hearing what you have to say!

well to be perfectly honest most of it is "SQUEEEEEE".

But yes, Gawain is awesome because he's just been in the folkloric stewpot so long that he's acquired all sorts of interesting flavors. (Lancelot still tastes strongly of Mary Sue.)

Also God help me, this sounds like the episode that might make me actually watch this damn show (which so far even Alexander Siddig being hilariously ev0l has not achieved), because WHY HELLO THERE all my narrative kinks!

Well, except for the one about Family Ties of Steel, which is the one that made me a giant Orkney fangirl in the first place. But, you know.

*wavyhands* GAWAIN ANALOGUE. Being ACTUALLY AWESOME AND GAWAIN-LIKE. And GWEN. omg.

Gawain is awesome because he's just been in the folkloric stewpot so long that he's acquired all sorts of interesting flavors.

Very well put! I do adore Gawain. (Re Lancelot, I'm not quite sure what the problem is, because he seems like a character who's actually gotten less interesting over the ages.)

Re Merlin, there is actually a fair amount of Family Ties of Steel, in an odd way. On the one hand, they have made far fewer characters related to each other (and made the except nature of those relations mysterious until recently; hence the roundup of theories I did a while back). On the other, from the very beginning, there's been a lot of extreme familial devotion, usually parent/child, but also sibling/sibling. Even some of the cheesiest one-dimensional villains in the first season were motivated by filial or family love, and all of the main cast have strong family bonds.

(I am still holding out hope that Gwaine might be related to someone we know, though it seems unlikely.)

Oh how did I miss this? :D

But I'm glad I found it. As usual, I love your thoughtful reviews and I love how Gwaine is being written in the show.

His actions help spare Gwaine’s life in the moment, but do nothing to erode the larger system of social inequity which has put it at risk in the first place.

This is so true. Arthur, at the end of the day, as lovely as he can be to Gwen and to Merlin (sometimes), is still hung up on his father's ideals. But then again, Arthur is going to be king in a autocratic system.

I loved how Gwen stopped Gwaine's flirting when it was obvious just ignoring him wasn't going to do it and I loved their little chat at the end. As you said, it's nice to see others acknowledge her attractiveness.

This is another good post. Out of curiosity, which version/edition of 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' would you recommend? I've toyed with the idea of getting it before, but I never did get around to it, mainly because of an unwillingness to spend money on such a small piece. It's fairly cheap though, so I guess it's not too big a deal.

Also, what are your thoughts on the recent appearance of Gawain in the latest episode, and how does it figure into your sentiments here? I suppose there isn't much 'meat' to analyse, but I found it interesting to note the completely different dynamic between Merlin - Gawain and Merlin - Arthur. Gawain really does treat Merlin as a genuine friend, with great warmth, but Arthur is still doing the sort of 'arms length' routine that he did throughout season one and season two. A bit disappointing, that...although Arthur's sarcasm and bullying has its own distinctive appeal, I suppose.

I am a big fan of the Casey Finch facing-page translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but offer the caveat that I'd only recommend it if you really want the Middle English. I think Finch has a great ear for the poetry, but he also has a gender bias, and in spots his take on the nameless lady's conversations with Gawain are easier on Gawain than the original medieval poet, who plays up the moral ambiguity.

Finch's translation occurs in The Complete Works of the Pearl Poet, so it has the other four works by the same anonymous poet (the argument that one man wrote all five is really strong) and an excellent Middle English glossary. Pearl, of course, is another masterpiece, like SGGK one of the greatest works of Middle English, and well worth reading. The other three not so much. (Seriously, St Erkenwald is not the finest piece of poetry the Middle Ages produced.)

If you don't want to read the Middle English (or at least use it as a check on the translation), then definitely get the Marie Boroff version. She's a more accurate translator than Finch, and her take on the poetry is great. It's actually an amazing work, and most scholars I've known who had to teach SGGK swear by it. (I haven't read the Tolkien one, which is also popular.)

I haven't had a chance to write up my thoughts on the latest yet, but I will definitely post them--I always have something to say, meaty or not! But I would agree that it extended the contrast between Gwaine and Arthur, and Gwaine came off much better--and in fact made Arthur's attitudes toward Merlin harder to take. Bullying doesn't appeal to me.

Also, the latest episode reinforced my idea that there's something mysterious about Gwaine's background and history. It does seem like he's been to the Perilous Lands before...

Apologies for the delay in replying -- I just finished SGGK. (I read the Armitage translation, but I'll definitely check out the Boroff version too, as it looks good.)

The language is quite lovely in places, with the alliteration, bob and wheel and all, and I enjoyed the tale as a whole. One thing I will say, however, is that I'm not sure if I saw a great deal of moral ambiguity -- it may have been due to the translation, but a lot of the exchanges with the lady were very one-sided, with her doing all the flirting and seducing, and Gawain trying to politely fob her off, despite the fact that he supposedly found her more beautiful than Guinevere. The only real moral lapse I could detect was when he accepted her present and then hid it from his host (I really enjoyed that moment). I can't help but be dubious of his continual rejections of her advances, though -- it's true that he obviously has a great deal of self-discipline and a staunch belief in chivalry, but I think it should have shown him being a -lot- more conflicted and emotionally torn when it came to her requests. He is, after all, a man at the end of the day -- that sounds horribly cynical, but I think I like seeing more flawed, human touches, rather than perfect Knights. (Thankfully he avoided falling into this bland category due to the aforementioned way he accepted her gift and deceived the husband, and the fact that he recognised this and wore the sash/girdle as a reminder to himself was a great little detail.) I can't help but wonder how he would have atoned if he really had slept with her, though...although I suppose if that had happened, he would have been decapitated anyway. The fact that his only flaw was his fear of death is a bit too kind to the character, in my opinion -- it's too easily forgiveable by the reader or listener. Who doesn't fear death?

I may be looking at it from too modern a perspective, however. It seemed like a morally didactic work, and to be fair, it wasn't just focusing on any old human -- it was focusing on a Knight, someone who had devoted their life to self-discipline and honour. I'll always prefer the cowards and weaklings in fiction, though, just because I find them more interesting and human. I'll also add that I liked the lady's skill with rhetoric, the way she manipulated him with her words and lulled him into being kissed each time. Thanks for the recommendation, either way. It was a good read, which I'll revisit soon. I'm also curious about this 'Pearl' poem, so I may seek that out too. Hell, I haven't even read 'Le Morte d'Arthur', so that has to be on the list too. I unfortunately have no real grasp of Medieval language, so I'll have to resort to a translation...any recommendations? I've seen editions of it, and it looks rather intimidating, a bit brick-like.

I stumbled on to this review via Google and I am so glad I did. It was an absolutely lovely read and not only did I learn a lot about Arthurian legends but I also really admired the way you contrasted Arthur and Gawain's actions and the mindset behind them.

I hope you don't feel it's too weird if I add you as a friend on LJ? I really want to keep track of further entries regarding this show. Thanks.

Thank you so much for commenting! Wow--Google, really?

I'm so glad you enjoyed and felt you learned from this piece. Feel free to add away--I will continue to post quite a bit on this show!

yep ^_^ You are the 2nd result when I searched for "gawain merlin" :)

Thanks, and looking forward to them!


My sister just linked me to one of your reviews, and I just wanted to say thank you for writing these amazing reviews. I love reading thoughtful, well-written, informative reviews by people who know what they're talking about. :) Please keep up the good work!

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