3.5. The Familiarity of the Gawain-Poet with Life and Customs at Court

The Gawain-Poet was closely familiar with the ways of court.  He knew in detail the formalities of the feast, who sat where, who was served first, and the decorations applied to the food.  He knew the games that were played, the way evenings were spent, the role of ladies, the details of courtesy to a host and to a guest.  See the feasting at Arthur's court (lines 37-136) and at Hautdesert (lines 884-894, 928-934, 975-990 and 999-1007) in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Balshazar's feast in Cleanness (lines 1456-1484) for examples of this knowledge.  He was certainly no stranger to life at court, indeed there is little or no evidence that he was aware of any other form of social life.

James Cottrell was Mordomo-Mór (Majordomo, Head Steward or Lord Chamberlain) of the royal household of Portugal from 1387 to 1415 [PAULO02].  In this role he would be required to be fully aware of all the finest detail of arrangements for royal feasting, for games in the evening, and with the detailed rules of courtesy in the court.