Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Important Quotations Explained

5
But if a dullard should dote, deem it no wonder,
And through the wiles of a woman be wooed into sorrow,
For so was Adam by one, when the world began,
And Solomon by many more, and Samson the mighty—
Delilah was his doom, and David thereafter
Was beguiled by Bathsheba, and bore much distress;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
For these were proud princes, most prosperous of old,
Past all lovers lucky, that languished under heaven,
bemused.
And one and all fell prey
To women they had used;
If I be led astry,
Methinks I may be excused.
      (24142419, 2422–2428)

In this quotation from the end of the poem, Gawain compares himself to famous biblical figures who were led astray by the deceitful tricks of women. However, the examples Gawain names are increasingly dissimilar to him, so that each example weakens his argument further until it falls apart completely when he compares himself to David. Eve beguiled Adam into eating from the Tree of Life in a way similar to the way the host’s wife beguiles Gawain, but the serpent had already beguiled Eve, which partly excuses her action—just as Morgan le Faye charmed the host and his lady. Delilah tricked Samson, but she did so on behalf of her own nation, and Samson knew he could not trust her. Samson therefore is to blame in part for Delilah’s betrayal of him. By far, the most clear-cut of the examples is that of David and Bathsheba. David saw Bathsheba, whom he knew to be a married woman, bathing on top of her roof and had her brought to his palace, where he slept with her. She conceived a child, and David sent her husband, his loyal supporter, out into the front lines of battle to be killed. As punishment for David’s sin, God killed their child. Since the men Gawain mentions, David in particular, are all partly responsible for their own downfalls, Gawain’s attempt to foist the blame for his sin onto the host’s wife gains little credence from these biblical examples.