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Grade: Senior
Subject: Literature

#2781. Lit circle guide for Sir Gawain, Part I

Literature, level: Senior
Posted Mon Jan 6 09:38:29 PST 2003 by Richard Bloom (
Central HS of Prince George's County Public Schools, Capitol Heights, Maryland
Materials Required: Gawain text, looseleaf, handout
Activity Time: 2 or 3 class periods to complete part I
Concepts Taught: vocabulary, theme, plot, characterization, intellectual history


I. Vocabulary (Word Master)

1. siege—noun—persistent or serious military (or other) attack (line 1)

2. breach—verb—to break or rupture (2)

3. impeach—verb—to accuse or bring a charge against (4)

4. perfidy—noun—faithlessness; treachery (4)

5. wrack—noun—wreckage; ruin (16)

6. derring-do—noun—daring (34)

7. comely—adjective—pleasant-looking (53)

8. bicker—verb—argue (68)

9. dais—noun—raised platform (75)

10. seemly—adjective—attractive; handsome (83)

11. chivalry—noun—knightliness; gallantry; being distinguished (94)

12. suppliant—noun—one who asks humbly (96)

13. mirth—noun—gaity (106)

14. stout—adjective—sturdily constructed (107)

15. stalwart [STALL wert]—adjective—strong; unwavering (115)

16. guise—noun—costume (151)

17. mantle—noun—sleeveless garment worn over other clothes; cloak (153)

18. embellish—verb—to decorate (155)

19. ermine [ER minn]—noun—weasel whose coat turns white in winter (155)

20. raiment [RAY ment]—noun—clothing [163]

21. pendant—noun—something suspended, as an ornament (168)

22. cunning—adjective—crafty; shrewd; industrious (188)

23. filament—noun—a single thread or threadlike appendage (189)

24. appurtenance—noun—accessory object; subordinate part (204)

25. swagger—verb—to be arrogant, or to walk that way (227)

26. chary—adjective—cautious; wary (241)

27. hostelry—noun—an inn or hotel (253)

28. gisarme [jee ZARM]—noun—medieval foot-soldier weapon; a blade mounted on a staff (288)

29. assay [a SAY]—verb—evaluate (291)

30. guerdon—[GER din)—reward (295)

31. sans—adjective—without (295)

32. vaunting—adjective—proud or boasting (312)

33. aghast—adjective—shocked or frightened (325)

34. haft—noun—the handle of a tool or weapon (329)

35. undaunted—adjective—emboldened; not discouraged (335)

36. melee [MAY lay]—noun—a confused struggle among a group of people (342)

37. abash—verb—embarrass; destroy self-confidence of someone (376)

38. adjure—verb—urge (379)

39. gird—verb—to surround or prepare for attack (417)

40. quail—verb—to recoil in dread or terror (442)

41. recreant [REK kree ent]—adjective—cowardly; a deserter (456)

42. roisterous—adjective—carousing; loud reveling (457)

43. hew—verb—to cut (477)

II. Discussion questions (Discussion Director)

1. For what purpose would the Gawain poet place King Arthur in line with the founders of the ancient civilizations?

2. Why is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight said to be written in alliterative verse?

3. While describing the knights and ladies of Arthur’s court, the Gawain poet alludes to some of the values of his audience? What adjectives, used to describe these scenes of “revelry”, correspond to these values?

4. How does the poet describe King Arthur? Does he remind you of anyone you know or have known?

5. What does Arthur challenge the Green Knight to do? Why, do you think?

6. What is the Knight’s reaction to this challenge?

7. How does Sir Gawain rationalize his request of Arthur that he be the one to accept the Knight’s challenge? What qualities does he thus show?

8. What bargain does the Green Knight strike with Gawain?

9. Describe the reaction of the gathered crowd to the spectacle that enfolds before Arthur.

III. Characterizations (Character Captain)

1. King Arthur

2. The Green Knight

3. Sir Gawain

IV. Draw a picture (Illustrator)

V. Significant passages (Passage master)


VI. Cultural connections (Connector)
See pages 228-233 in World History and pp. 180-184 in Humanities.