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Pentangle in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

About fifty lines in the chivalric romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight take over the significant symbol, the Pentangle, displayed on the Gawain’s shield. Each knight had a different design or symbol placed on his shield, which made it possible to identify people in battle when helmets obscured their faces. The Pentangle contains important information about Gawain, so it should be given special attention.

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The Pentangle is a five-pointed star, a symbol that appears in many different traditions. However, it is not only the design excellence that justifies Sir Gawain’s ability as a knight; the symbolism goes much deeper. The poet says that five points represent Gawain’s virtues since he is “faithful five ways and five times each” (Barron 635). “Five fives” refers to the five modes of chivalry, as well as the five traits that an exemplary knight should have. The author emphasizes its importance when he states that all English people call it the “endless knot” (Barron 630). Thus, the Pentangle on Gawain’s shield indicates the highest level of chivalry, which defines him not only as one of the best in Arthur’s court but possibly the best in England. It shows that Gawain is a model of a secular, warlike class, an ideal of the ruling class, presented to the admiration and imitation of the audience.

Each of the five points of the Pentangle represents Gawain’s virtues. First, the poet describes Gawain as perfect in five senses, which speaks of the power of the knight’s wit. The next five are five fingers, which symbolize Gawain’s great physical prowess. The third one is the five wounds of Christ, which are the sign of Gawain’s faith in Christianity (Barron 642). The fourth five is marked as the five joys of Mary. During the battle, Gawain focuses on Mary and her child to gain courage (Barron 643). Moreover, the picture of Mary is painted on the inside of Gawain’s shield. Finally, the fifth five is a set of things that can be viewed as chivalrous virtues, such as generosity, friendship, chastity, courtesy, and piety.

The Pentangle has appeared throughout history, from Babylonian pottery to Hebrew iconography. This symbol connects not only the infinite nature of truth but all the characteristics of the ideal knight. These fifty lines in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are not just about a simple description of an object. The poet wants his readers to consider the broader meaning of the shield and the Pentangle. This description helps the reader return to the plot with more appreciation for Sir Gawain’s character and traits.

Work Cited

Barron, William Raymond Johnston, ed. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Manchester University Press, 1998.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, July 24). Pentangle in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/pentangle-in-sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight/

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StudyCorgi. (2022, July 24). Pentangle in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. https://studycorgi.com/pentangle-in-sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight/

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StudyCorgi. "Pentangle in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." July 24, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/pentangle-in-sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Pentangle in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." July 24, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/pentangle-in-sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Pentangle in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'. 24 July.

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