Symbolism of Gawain’s Pentangle

In the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” a few stanzas emphasize on the importance and symbolic meaning of the pentangle he is wearing on his shield. The pentangle stands for many things such as friendship, faithfulness, and christianity. The pentangle is first introduced in line 620 stating “With the pentangle portrayed in purest gold.” The line represents the wealth displayed by a knight. The stanza goes on for four more lines saying “About his broad neck by the baldric he casts it, That was meet for the man, and matched him well. And why the pentangle is proper to that peerless prince I intend now to tell, though detain me it must.” Knights are supposed to be dressed in the best and the stanza starting on line 620 represents what kind of knight Sir Gawain was. The pentangle also symbolizes Christianity. Christianity was a major part in all literature during this era because to many literate monks wrote the literature. Christianity is displayed in line 625 when the writer says “It is a sign by Solomon sagely devised To be a token of truth, by its title of old.” From research outside of the text, I learned that Solomon was the third King of Israel and he had the pentagram seal on his ring. The seal on the ring was said to give Solomon power over demons, which can be interpreted to do the same for Sir Gawain in the poem. The representation of faithfulness is interpreted by the term “endless knot” in the stanza “For it is a figure formed of five points, and each line is linked and locked with the next For ever and ever, and hence it is called In all England, as I hear, the endless knot.” The pentangle also represents that he was faultless in his five senses. The five points of the star directly represents the lines “And first, he was faultless in his five senses, Nor found ever to fail in his five fingers, And all his fealty was fixed upon the five wounds That Christ got on the cross, as the creed tells;” Line 640 states his five senses, which represents a good knight- a knight who can rely on his senses in battle. Line 641 states his five fingers, which means that his hands are most important to him in battle and he will not be failed by them. Line 642 states the five wounds. The five wounds represents Christianity and Christ during crucification. As a good knight, Gawain is supposed to stay loyal to his duty even if it means the loss of his life. To defend his community and his reputation, Gawain must be willing to lose his life without fear, as Christ did. Two more fives listed in the poem are listed on lines 646-655. “That all his force was founded on the five joys That the high Queen of heaven had in her child” represents Christ again. The last five is stated by saying “The fifth of the five fives followed by this knight Were beneficence boundless and brotherly love And pure mind and manners, that none might impeach, And compassion most precious-these peerless five.” This last five represents his code of chivalry; his daily duties as a knight.


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