Character Analysis Bertilak (or Bercilak) of Hautdesert


Gawain's unnamed host at Castle Hautdesert is finally identified as Bertilak, who is also the Green Knight. As Gawain's host, Bertilak is warm, hospitable, and fun loving. He welcomes Gawain with generosity, supplying him with rich clothes, a fine feast, and the company of his lovely wife. He shares many qualities with the Green Knight: his energy and vitality, his physical might, his bushy beard, and his love of games. He plays a hooding game with his courtiers, and he also proposes a game with Gawain, the exchange of winnings.

Besides being a gracious host, the lord of Hautdesert is also an excellent hunter. He leaves each day at dawn, pursuing his prey with enthusiasm before finally returning home at sunset. This pattern gives him some of the qualities of a primitive sun god, perhaps reinforcing his identity with the Green Knight. The hunt also takes him into the world of nature, another association of the Green Knight. The lord displays not only great vigor during the hunt, but also great bravery. For example, he attacks a dangerous wild boar on foot, armed only with a sword.

Some critics have suggested that Bertilak and the Green Knight are not really the same person, and that Bertilak's final explanation of events should not be accepted at face value. Given the ambiguous nature of the Green Knight, it may be true that the Green Knight is not simply a role that Bertilak puts on, thanks to Morgan's magic, when it is convenient. Perhaps Bertilak himself is not entirely a mundane creature, given the sudden and mysterious appearance of his fantastically beautiful castle in the midst of the wilderness.