3.9. The Legal Knowledge of the Gawain-Poet
The Gawain-Poet demonstrates a close knowledge of the verbal form of legal contracts in his description of the contracts between
Sir Gawain and Bertilak, both as the Green Knight and as the master of Hautdesert.
Þen carppez to Sir Gawan þe knyȝt in þe grene,
'Refourme we oure forwardes, er we fyrre passe.
Fyrst I eþe þe, haþel, how þat þou hattes
Þat þou me telle truly, as I tryst may.'
'In god fayth,' quoþ þe goode knyȝt, 'Gawan I hatte
Þat bede þe þis buffet (quatso bifallez after)
And at þis tyme twelmonyth take at þe anoþer
Wyth what weppen so þou wylt–and wyth no wyȝ ellez
On lyue.' (377-385)
And þou hatz redily rehersed, bi resoun ful trwe,
Clanly al þe couenaunt þat I þe kynge asked,
Saf þat þou schal siker me, segge, bi þi trawþe,
Þat þou schal seche me þiself, whereso þou hopes
I may be funde vpon folde, and foch þe such wages
As þou deles me today … (392-397)
And of þe knyȝt þat hit kepes, of colour of grene.
Þer watz stabled bi statut a steuen vus bytwene (1059-1060)
And I schal ware alle my wyt to wynne me þeder–
And þat I swere þe for soþe and by my seker traweþ (402-403)
Trwe mon trwe restore,
Þenne þar mon drede no waþe. (2354-2355)
||--Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
'Ȝet firre,' quoþ þe freke, 'a forwarde we make:
Quatsoeuer I wynne in þe wod hit worþez to yourez
And quat chek so ȝe acheue chaunge me þerforne.
Swete, swap we so: sware with trawþe,
Queþer leude so lymp lere oþer better.'
'Bi God,' quoþ Gawayn þe gode, 'I grant þertylle;
And þat yow lyst for to layke lef hit me þynkes.'
'Who brynges vus þis beuerage, þis bargayn is maked,'
So sayde þe lorde of þat lede; þay laȝed vchone.
||--Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1105-1113)
As Mordomo-Mór to the royal household and court James Cottrell would be responsible for all the legal contracts with suppliers
to the royal court. He would be required to be fully aware of the legal details of contract, and to use them on a regular
© 2005-2007 Ron Catterall