Masculine Identity in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Vern L. Bullough’s article, “On Being a Male in the Middle Ages,” addresses how vital it was for a man living in the middle ages to be sexually active in order to maintain a masculine identity by explaining: Quite clearly, male sexual performance was a major key to being male. It was a man’s sexual organs that made him different and superior to the woman. But maleness was somewhat fragile, and it was important for a man to keep demonstrating his maleness by action and thought, especially by sexual action.
It was part of his duty to keep his female partners happy and satisfied, and unless he did so, he had failed as a man.
Kinney presents a good foundation for the Green Knight’s role in the story, but she fails to see that as the tester of Gawain’s masculinities the Green Knight must prove that he is more of a man than Gawain, not just his equal.
The Green Knight validates his superior masculinity by proving that Gawain can not stop him from being a man. This is evident in this passage, which takes place after the Green Knight has had his head cut off by Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: Yet the fellow did not fall, nor falter on whit, But stoutly sprang forward on legs still sturdy, Roughly reached out among the ranks of nobles, Seized his splendid head and straightway lifted it.
As you can see from the above quote, the Green Knight did not show any signs of being less of a man even though Gawain had cut off his head. This enforces the Green Knight’s fatherly identity since, according to Freud, a child has a fear of being castrated by his father for wanting to engage in a sexual relation with his mother. The Green Knight has proven that he is a father figure for Gawain by showing that he can never be castrated by his son. Therefore, as a father figure that is in possession of a masculine identity above .
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