This article explores the themes of treason and betrayal which are common motifs of medieval romances, specifically those featuring the Arthurian knight Sir Gawain. Because loyalty to one’s lord, nation, or family unit was critical for survival in the Middle Ages, the problem of treachery by close companions is often a recurring subject in romances from this period. Such themes revealed to their audience the fragility of these relationships and cautioned against overconfidence in the bonds of loyalty. Romances featuring Gawain, like the Middle English Awntyrs off Arthur and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, conclude with the young hero learning to understand the dangers of duplicity. Positioning these messages about treason against the competing tradition of Gawain’s own role in Arthur’s betrayal, however, exposes a broader lesson about finding comfort in loyalty. Only by reading the lessons of the Gawain romances through the wider lens of those traditions surrounding the fall of Arthur’s kingdom can we gain a full appreciation of the medieval warnings against treason and betrayal included in these romances.
Laing, Gregory L.
"Treason and Betrayal in the Middle English Romances of Sir Gawain,"
The Hilltop Review: Vol. 3
, Article 3.
Available at: http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/hilltopreview/vol3/iss1/3