Examining The Violence and Victory in “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight,” by Sarah Dieckman

Original text, lines 1319-1339

And ay þe lorde of þe londe is lent on his gamnez,
To hunt in holtez and heþe at hyndez barayne
Such a sowme he þer slow bi þat þe sunne heldet;
Of does and of oþer dere, to deme were wonder.
Þenne fersly þay flokked in, folk, at þe laste,
And quykly of þe quelled dere a querré þay maked.
Gedered þe grattest of gres þat þer were
And didden hem derely vndo as þe dede askez.
Serched hem at þe assay summe þat þer were;
Two fyngeres þay fonde of þe fowlest of alle.
Syþen þay slyt þe slot, sesed þe erber,
Schaued wyth a scharp knyf, and þe schyre knitten.
Syþen rytte þay þe foure lymmes and rent of þe hyde;
Þen brek þay þe balé,þe bowelez out token,
Lystily for laucyng þe lere of þe knot.
Þay gryped to þe gargulun and graþely departed
Þe wesaunt fro þe wynt-hole and walt out þe guttez.
Þen scher þay out þe schulderez with her scharp knyuez,
Haled hem by a lyttel hole to haue hole sydes;
Siþen britned þay þe brest and brayden hit in twynne.
And eft at þe gargulum bigynez on þenne, […]

My Translation of lines 1319-1339

And always the lord of the land is away at his sport,
Hunting the barren hinds in the woods and heath;
He killed there such a quantity by the time the sun fell,
Of does and of other deer, it was wonderful to assess.
Then spiritedly the people assembled at last,
And quickly made a heap of game from the killed deer.
The nobles went there with many men,
Gathered the fattest that there were,
And had them gracefully cut open in the prescribed manner.
Some who were there examined them at the ‘assay;’
They found two fingers’ breadth of flesh on the poorest of them all.
Then they slit the hollow at the base of the throat,
Took hold of the gullet, scraped it with a sharp knife and tied up the flesh.
Then they slit along the four legs, and stripped off the hide;
They opened up the belly, drew the bowels,
Carefully to avoid undoing the ligature of the knot.
They seized the throat and properly separated
The gullet from the wind-pipe and tossed out the guts.
Then they cut out the shoulder-joints with their sharp knives,
Drawing them through a small hole so as to keep the sides intact.
Then they cut open the breast and divided it in two.

Part III of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight details scenes between Gawain and the Lady of Lord Bertilak alongside scenes of Lord Bertilak and his men hunting in the woods. The Pearl-Poet juxtaposes the slower bedroom scenes, which focus on conversation over action, with the violent, aggressive hunting carried out by the Lord and his men. I chose to focus on the deer hunting passage to examine the intimacy it possesses, question why the poet chose to speak of the hunt with such candor and detail, and determine why his explicit explanations are powerful and necessary in the poem. In lines 1319 to 1339, the lord engages in the hunt itself, returns with several other individuals to the castle, and begins to dismember the multiple carcasses they accumulated on their journey. The blunt, vivid manner in which the poet discusses the deer is unsettling, yet intriguing for readers. Vocabulary such as “slit,” “stripped,” and “seized” is dramatic and gory. The poet does not attempt to soften his speech because it is not his mission to coddle or to comfort readers. These and other uses of this visceral language force readers to visualize the carnage and does not give them an opportunity to look away.

The power and pure, physical strength of the noblemen is evident throughout this passage, as they swiftly kill hundreds of deer, animals that often represent innocence. This sport was not merely a simple pastime, but was a source of pride and prestige for these men. According to the book, hunting skills were praised because individuals viewed them as aristocratic accomplishments. These skills displayed a man’s ability to master that which was below him and to do so with ease. Here, the male dominates the doe. Back in the bedroom, it is the woman who acts as the female aggressor and assumes power over Gawain, the male. Much of the poem discusses who has the power or opportunity to act and how they choose to wield that power. Here is no exception. The stanza’s repetitive structure emphasizes that it is the men that possess control over the animal, as nearly every line begins with “they” and proceeds to detail how they cut or sliced the deer lying before them. The process may seem monotonous, but each individual cut and chop is just as significant and horrific as the first.

In addition to examining my personal translation, I also read Marie Borroff’s translation of the text. While some of her version was true to the original text, parts were problematic, as they eliminated much of the brutality and streamlined the harsher vocabulary to produce a more pleasing end result. From the beginning, her translation fails to include the same information present in the poet’s text. While my translation reads, “And always the lord of the land is away at his sport,” hers reads, “And the lord of the land rides late and long.” Though Borroff succeeds in maintaining the alliteration in her version, she does not indicate that the lord is engaging in his sport, nor does she specify the normalcy of this action. My translation highlights the fact that this behavior is routine for the lord, while Borroff’s gives the lord little ownership of the game. His passion for and time given to this game is significant and explains why the poet chooses to explore the event in detail rather than sum up all that occurs in a few lines. This hunt has meant and continues to mean something to the lord, so therefore it should mean something to us reading, and we should have the opportunity to fully experience his journey alongside him. Simplifying the line and maintaining the original structure should not be done at the expense of the poem’s actual content.

In line 1329, a slight vocabulary change is not only inaccurate in tone, but it is also not faithful to the meaning found in the medieval text. Rather than referring to the deer as the “poorest of them all,” Borroff states that the men began to cut open the “leanest.” If an animal is lean, then it is healthy. Poor does not equal healthy. The “poorest of them all” could indicate that the animal looked sickly, small, or it may address the animal as a victim. The leanest may instead look visually appealing to the hunters. This animal is the poorest, as it is the primary animal to suffer under the knives of the men. Referring to the animal as poor acknowledges its existence, gives it agency, and offers sympathy. Calling it lean merely remarks on its size and stature. These two words are not synonymous, so the intent of the poet is not evident here in Borroff’s work.

A discrepancy in line 1332 is also worth noting. While my translation reads that the number of does and deer “was wonderful to assess,” Borroff states that the amount of animals “would dizzy one’s wits.” The first indicates that the sheer amount of deer that the men collected should inspire awe. It remarks on those given the opportunity and, ultimately, the gift of witnessing this in person. Borroff’s, however, comments on the magnitude of the number, but not on the majestic or inspiring qualities it possesses. Just as Borroff failed to capture the lord’s relationship with the sport, she does not portray the same feeling of merriment my translation does. While this detail may not have severe consequences for the poet’s intent or meaning of the section as a whole, it is important to describe the scene to the best of one’s ability and to attest to the positive energy that clearly filled the room, no matter how violent the acts they soon commit.

Borroff’s oversimplification occurs again several lines later when the men return to the castle to take apart the deer carcasses. Line 1330 in my translation reads: “Then they slit the hollow at the base of the throat,” while Borroff’s line is, “Then they split the slot open and searched out the paunch.” Again, Borroff includes alliteration in the line, but differing from the other line, she decided to keep a Middle English term in her translation rather than adapt the text for a Modern English reader. She keeps “slot” rather than changing to “base at the hollow of the throat.” The term “slot” is vague and offers little description of where the men are now cutting into the deer. The “base at the hollow of the throat” is more explicit and emphasizes the vulnerability of this animal. It conveys the intimacy of this moment between man and beast. The phrase “split the slot” over “slit the hollow” sounds especially safe, as though she is hoping to shield readers from the piercing and stabbing, even though these actions are natural and what must happen to complete the hunting process. Borroff also speaks of an incorrect body part in this particular line by stating they look at the “paunch”, or abdomen, rather than the “gullet,” meaning esophagus. It is confusing why she chose to skip to another body part altogether when the poet purposefully dedicates a generous amount of time to the throat as it is one of the weakest and most exposed parts of any creature. The dominance of the males over the susceptible deer should be blatant and overdrawn, not watered down by a translation that sometimes chooses to merely include the main idea without delving into excessive detail.

Line 1323 contains a seemingly minor vocabulary change, but one that interestingly represents Borroff’s translation as a whole. My translation reads: “Then spiritedly the people assembled at last,” while hers reads, “then they trooped in together in triumph at last.” Borroff retains the alliteration with small articles in between the “t” words, and the line actually resembles the sound it describes: trotting horses. While this is fine work by Borroff, she changes “spiritedly” to “in triumph” in her translation, which I find troublesome because “triumph” emphasizes a definite win over someone or something lesser. While the hunters did triumph over the deer, the poet does not emphasize this point until later when he begins to detail the cutting and slicing of the deer. Before the first deer is selected, the men are spirited and seem celebratory, but their great triumph is not made entirely obvious. Throughout Borroff’s translation, she chooses to compromise some of the vocabulary in order to keep the lines alliterative; however, the hunters’ success should be made evident through the total control they soon demonstrate over the animals, not by the manner in which they return to the castle.

It is a testament to the poet’s superior talent and skill that Sir Gawain and The Green Knight is still read and translated by students and professionals alike. While overall Marie Borroff offers a detailed, authentic translation of the poet’s text, she at times chooses to connect with modern English readers rather than capturing the poem’s true essence that the author so greatly executed. She sometimes chose to focus on rhythm rather than gauging the appropriate tone and opted to soften her language to erase some of the overwhelming violence prevalent in the text. However, modern readers are not or should not be as sensitive as she believes them to be. Rather, she should highlight the terror in the poem because no one can totally escape from or should be ignorant to the unpleasant aspects of life, whether real or imaginary.

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An Ugly, Bad Witch, by Karen Neis


                            A mensk lady on molde mon may hir calle, for Gode!

Dorothy may well have been familiar with Gawain and the Green Knight. When asked whether she is a good witch or a bad witch, the poor girl responds, “I’m not a witch at all. Witches are old and ugly,” perhaps referring to the foul description of Morgan le Fay found in the fourteenth-century Arthurian poem (quoted in full at the end of this article). Glinda, however, may have read the same passage with a greater level of moral heavy-handedness: “Only bad witches are ugly.”

Dorothy and Gawain both challenge green villains – hers an ugly woman, his a fiercely handsome man. At the end of his adventure, however, Gawain learns that the Green Knight derived both his purpose and his greenness from Morgan; ultimately both heroes come up against someone old, ugly, female, and bad.

Morgan makes her loathsome appearance hand-in-hand with the beautiful wife of Bertilak; the two women are contrasted through Gawain’s judgmental male gaze – he sexualizes their physical differences, just as Glinda moralizes the appearances of the witches of Oz. Marie Borroff’s translation of the passage is generally accurate, but she constantly weakens the all-important comparisons which, in the original, so vividly reveal Gawain’s misogynistic mind.

The passage begins in line 941: “Þenne lyst þe lady to loke on þe knyȝt.” Borroff translates “lyst,” which means only “it pleases [her]” to the melodramatic “longed,” which confuses the wife’s motivations from the very start. The wife’s attitude toward Gawain is meant to be ambivalent throughout; twists and turns in the story make it unclear whether she loves him or is merely playing a trick on him. Perhaps Borroff had already transitioned into Gawain’s perspective; the deluded, conceited Gawain already assumes that the lady “longs” to look at him. If so, she has moved into his head too early; “lyst,” neutral as it is, is one of the few verbs we can ascribe to the wife’s true motivations.

Two lines later, the poet has leapt into Gawain’s judgmental gaze: “Ho watz þe fayrest in felle, of flesche and of lyre / And of compass and color and costs, of alle oþer” (943-4). Borroff, however, has left Gawain’s head: “The fair hues of her flesh, her face and her hair / And her body and bearing were beyond praise.” Gawain, in the original, is already comparing women; female beauty for him is always relative. In translation, praising the lady is “beyond” the talent of the narrator, but she is not compared to anything. Borroff’s translation of each noun, however, is admirable; though “lyre” means “cheek,” Borroff’s “hair” is closer to it in sound, and she excellently exchanges the three c-alliterations for b-alliterations. Her use of “hues,” however, is confusing, since “bearing” cannot show a “hue.”

Perhaps the most unfortunate mistranslation in this passage comes in the next line: while the poet cleverly blends adjective and noun through alliteration and assonance – “And wener þen Wenore, as þe wyse þost” – Borroff writes “And excelled the queen herself, as Sir Gawain thought” (945). Borroff’s line employs no alliteration; while she could not use the poet’s w-alliteration, she could have used g-alliteration: “more gorgeous/gracious than Guinevere,” which would also alliterate with “Gawain.” Even this g-alliteration loses the incredible similarity between “wener” and “Wenore” which makes Gawain’s unforgiving comparison of the two women so powerful that it extends even to the level of spelling.

The next line’s mistranslation is debatably even worse: from “Ho ches þurȝ þe chaunsel to cheryche þat hende,” to “He goes forth to greet her with gracious intent” (946). Again, Borroff robs the wife of one of her few verbs; she is meant to “ches” to him, not the other way around. The Pearl poet’s woman pursues Gawain with ambiguous feelings; Borroff’s woman is pursued by Gawain, a man for whom she apparently “longs.”

Finally, Morgan appears. Borroff excellently translates the next few lines, especially 949, in which Borroff maintains the h-alliteration by stretching out the verb to “held in high honor,” since modern English has no h-word for “haþelez,” “knights.” Borroff’s translation of “ȝep” and “ȝolȝe” to “fresh” and “faded” gets across the meaning and alliteration, but it loses the sexualized connotation of “ȝep” and the yellowness of “ȝolȝe” – an undesirable loss in a poem in which color symbolism is so rich and important (951).

The following lines also loses subtlety in color: in Middle English “red” meant everything from purple to pink, and while Borroff’s translation makes “red” modify the wife’s vivid clothes, the poet probably intended “red” to modify her healthy pink skin, to contrast with Morgan’s “ronkled” skin (952-3). However, Borroff’s use of f-alliteration – “Flesh hung in folds on the face of the other” – captures the unpleasant softness of elderly skin more vividly than the poet’s r-alliteration: “Rugh rankled chekez þat oþer on rolled” (953). In this rare example, the translation exceeds the original.

For the sake of alliteration, Borroff changes “Kerchofes” to “a high headdress,” a confusing shift which moves the reader’s eye from the wife’s breast to her head, again de-sexualizing the imagery and removing readers further from Gawain’s gaze (954). This censorship continues when she changes “bare displayed” to “fair to behold” (955). Her wording does not do justice to the wife’s sexualized clothing – whether she is wearing it of her own choice or on her husband’s orders is not stated – nor to Gawain’s observation of it. Furthermore, for the second time, she refuses to use comparisons: the original wife’s breast is “schyrer” than the snow, while the translated wife’s breast is equal to it (956).

Borroff understandably changes “gorger” and “gered” to “wimple” and “wore,” though “wimple” is technically incorrect since it implies that the cloth wraps around the entire head (957). More oddly, Borroff changes “blake” to “swart,” a word which she annotates as “dark” (958). “Swart” blends excellently with “swaddled” and “swathed,” but it is an archaic word, and it loses the direct colorization of “blake,” which can mean “swarthy” and “black” and also carries connotations of sin. Glinda’s morality and Gawain’s sexuality cannot of course be separated; Gawain is also searching Morgan for signs of evil in her ugliness, and he may find it in her “blake” chin.

It is unfortunate that the English language has lost three beautiful words which describe medieval cloth – “chymbled,” “Toret,” and “treleted” – whatever words Borroff uses can only fall short of the original (958, 960).

Borroff translates the next lines accurately, including the essential color imagery in “blake broȝes” to “black brows” and the disgusting rawness in “naked lyppez” to “naked lips” (961-2). However, in two cases she neglects to describe one half of a sensory image, which makes comparison of the two women impossible. Though she describes Morgan’s modesty, she earlier neglected to emphasize the wife’s bare skin; this visual connection is therefore severed in translation (955, 961). She also translates “soure” as “unsightly,” which not only makes the s-alliteration awkward but loses the connotation of “sour taste,” which, in the original, contrasts starkly with the “lykkerwys on to lyk,” “sweet to taste,” younger woman (963, 968). The imagery of taste is the most sexual comparison, and it appears dramatically at the end of the stanza, so its loss takes much away from the characterization of Gawain as a sexual being.

While the bob and the line above it in the original are rich with sarcasm, Borroff’s translation is simply confusing. The Pearl poet calls Morgan “mensk,” which most directly means “honored,” as an elderly person ought to be honored, but it also has connotations of “beautiful,” “honoring one’s wife or mistress,” and even “virginity” (964). Morgan’s sexual history later becomes a method of identifying and denigrating her, so the use of “mensk” here is rich with irony. The joking tone is enforced by the exclamatory bob: “For Gode!” (965) Borroff, on the other hand, writes, “A beldame, by God, she may well be deemed, / of pride!” (964-5). “Beldame” is archaic; “pride” has no source in the original; and the exclamation is lost by burying it in a longer line rather than making it the bob.

The wheel is the most obscene and saddening portrayal of women in the passage, and Borroff excellently captures its imagery and strict rhyme scheme. Gawain’s role as critical observer becomes most vivid in the last two lines: “More lykkerwys on to lyk / Watz þat scho hade on lode;” “More toothsome, to his taste / Was the beauty by her side” (968-9).

By comparing the two women, the narrator – Gawain’s mind – shows scorn for Morgan, whose blackness is not menacing enough to distract from her elderly yellowness, and desire for the wife, whose pinkness and whiteness attract the young knight. However, just as Dorothy’s initial awe for the Wizard turns out to be unfounded, Gawain’s initial impressions of the two women prove false: Morgan is powerful, and the wife’s temptation is Bertilak’s scheme. Marie Borroff’s translation fails to depict the extent to which comparisons consume both this passage and Gawain’s perspective on women. If Dorothy was familiar with Gawain, it was probably only in translation.

Gawain and the Green Knight, lines 941-969:
Þenne lyst þe lady to loke on þe knyȝt, / Then it pleased the lady to look on the knight,
Þenne com ho of hir closet with mony cler burdez. / Then she came from her closed pew with many fair ladies.
Ho watz þe fayrest in felle, of flesche and of lyre, / She was the fairest in skin, of flesh and of cheek,
And of compas and colour and costes, of alle oþer, / And of proportion and complexion and qualities, of all others.
And wener þen Wenore, as þe wyȝe þoȝt. / And more lovely than Guinevere, as the knight thought.
Ho ches þurȝ þe chaunsel to cheryche þat hende. / She made her way through the chancel to greet that man.
An oþer lady hir lad bi þe lyft honde, / Another lady led her by the left hand,
Þat watz alder þen ho, an auncian hit semed, / Who was older than her, an old lady it seemed,
And heȝly honowred with haþelez aboute. / And was highly honored by the knights around.
Bot vnlyke on to loke þo ladyes were, / But dissimilar to look upon those ladies were,
For if þe ȝonge watz ȝep, ȝolȝe watz þat oþer; / For if the younger was fresh/virile, withered/yellowish was the other;
Riche red on þat on rayled ayquere, / Rich pink was arrayed everywhere [on the skin of] on that one,
Rugh ronkled chekez þat oþer on rolled; / Rough wrinkled cheeks on that other one rolled;
Kerchofes of þat on, wyth mony cler perlez, / Kerchiefs of that one, with many clear pearls,
Hir brest and hir bryȝt þrote bare displayed, / Her breast and her pure white throat bare displayed,
Schon schyrer þen snawe þat schedez on hillez; / Shone brighter that snow that falls on the hills;
Þat oþer wyth a gorger watz gered ouer þe swyre, / That other with a gorget was covered over the neck,
Chymbled ouer hir blake chyn with chalkquyte vayles, / Wrapped up over her black chin with chalk-white veils,
Hir frount folden in sylk, enfoubled ayquere, / Her forehead wimpled in silk, covered everywhere,
Toreted and treleted with tryflez aboute, / Made with embroidered edge and latticed with fine stitching all over,
Þat noȝt watz bare of þat burde bot þe blake broȝes, / That nothing was bare of that lady but the black eyebrows,
Þe tweyne yȝen and þe nase, þe naked lyppez, / The two eyes and the nose, the naked lips,
And þose were soure to se and sellyly blered; / And those were unpleasant/sour to see and exceedingly blurred;
A mensk lady on molde mon may hir calle, / An honored/lovely/virginal lady on earth man may call her,
for Gode! / by God!
Hir body watz schort and þik, / Her body was short and thick,
Hir buttokez balȝ and brode, / Her buttocks swelling and broad,
More lykkerwys on to lyk / Sweeter to taste
Watz þat scho hade on lode. / Was she who she had with her.

Image from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 film ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

A Lovely Lady? by Mercedes de la Rosa

In a way, any translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a minor miracle. Translating anything is difficult because the translation must attempt to make good logical sense while simultaneously capturing the spirit of the words. This is often difficult because the connotations behind each word are different in the language that the text is being translated into. Translating Middle English is particularly difficult because many of the words that the original texts use have a plethora of possible meanings. Middle English was also written in a time when dictionaries and writing guides were not readily available for all writers; therefore translation is further complicated by inconsistent spelling. On the same page it is not uncommon to find two or three spellings of the exact same word. Without spelling books words were often written phonetically, which led to further variation in writing as individual authors spoke different dialects. The difference in dialects is comparable to the different regional variations of speech in the United States. Imagine if a Bostonian and a Southern Californian were both to write and spell exactly as they spoke: their writing would share common words, but some words would sound and look completely different. It is therefore, difficult to even identify the best rewriting of particular words, let alone capture the connotation of the line or piece as a whole. Poetry presents a challenge in any language. Its special use of word play is often filled with subtleties that even an astute fluent reader can miss. In translating poetry the tools of alliteration, rhyming, as well as word play through the use of homonyms and homographs is often lost. Therefore any translator attempting to relate the epic poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight faces many difficulties, and each translator will have their own individual spin.

Marie Borroff’s translation is the one most commonly found in Norton Anthologies and is widely viewed as one of the best translations. However, after reading Sir Gawain, I would like to tease out some difference between her text and the original as I understand it. Below is a side by side comparison of my own translation (on the right) and Borroff’s translation (on the left) of Part I lines 1204-1236.

 

One of the first things I noticed was that this rather steamy scene was significantly censored and edited so that the lady was portrayed in a more playful rather than sexually aggressive light. For example, instead of translating “I schal happe yow here þat oþer half als” as “I shall imprison you on the other side too” and choosing “I shall hem and hold you on either hand,” Borroff is closer to directly translating the words themselves, but misses the truly sexually explicit imagery that the words imply. Her chosen adjectives go with the less aggressive or unsettling meanings, as well. For instance, she has chosen to take the word “vnslyȝe” in “Ȝe ar a sleper vnslyȝe, þat mon may slyde hider” to mean “slack”. However an alternative meaning of the word is “incautious”, which warns the reader that Sir Gawain must be very cautious in this next encounter. Interestingly, on further examination Sir Gawain is similarly portrayed in a gentler light as he is described as gentle and jesting, “Thus jested in answer that gentle knight,” instead of being characterized as more war-like, “And thus he wittily answered (verbally jousted) against with many a happy laugh”. I have chosen to translate the word “bourded” in this way because of the presence of the word “aȝayn” which means against. Jesting and verbal jousting are often the same thing, however I felt like the word “against” together with “jousting” created a war-like feeling appropriate to a knight being tested.

As the differences in translating the line “And þus he bourded aȝayn with mony a blyþe laȝter” reveals, even some of the best translations cannot capture some of the word play that is occurring. “Bourded” seemed to be a variation of the word “bourden”. “Bourden” could mean exactly what Borroff suggests, according to the Middle English Dictionary, it could very well mean “to joke, jest, mock”. However the MED also gives a second possibility as “to joust,” or even more specifically, “charge (a boar) with a spear”. Clearly the second possibility cleverly links Gawain’s challenge in the bedroom with the lady, to Lord Bertilak’s ongoing hunt in the forest as one of the animals he hunts is a boar.

Another example of when the translation must unfortunately shed itself of the word play occurring is in the line “Al laȝande þe lady lauced þo bourdez”. The word “lauced” according to the glossary in the back of Gillespie, Glasscoe, and Swanton’s The Poems of the Pearl Manuscript could mean to “utter, speak” but it also has the alternate meaning “loosen, break, burst, undo, and open”. The use of this homograph helps create the sexual atmosphere of the scene. Even though the lady does not actually loosen or undo anything, the clever play on words, draws the reader’s eyes to the implicit sexually aggressive nature of the scene as a whole.

Aside from the sexual nature of the scene, which Borroff tries to make family friendly, her usage of punctuation is particularly interesting. In part, I believe that this is due to the fact that Borroff is not directly translating the text, but is attempting to make it flow in modern day English. Despite her careful use of archaic words, Borroff gives a very readable text to the modern reader. However, by slightly changing the punctuation of her text, Borroff is placing emphasis on different ideas within the passage. For example, by placing an exclamation point after “I am well content!” instead of the comma used in the original, Borroff Is stressing the knight’s content. While this may seem like a minor issue, the stress on the knight’s content makes him sound more confident and at ease than in the original. In the original he is obviously uncomfortable as he claims that he needs a certain outcome to occur, “Me schal worþe at your wille, and þat me wel lykez, For I ȝelde me ȝederly, and ȝeȝe after grace, And þat is þe best, be my dome, for me byhouez need!’”.

Therefore, while Borroff provides the world with an introduction to the story of Sir Gawain by translating it and thereby making it more approachable, her translation can be and should be critiqued. First, for some of the choices she herself makes, like the choice to downplay the sexual nature of the scene; and secondly, because of the nature of translation itself. No translation, however masterful, can capture all of the intricacies of the original.