Making Friends with a Green Knight

Every book is written by a human who lived, worked, played and wrote in the context of his surroundings. Getting to know the landscape of his world brings his book to life. An old book only seems old if we forget the reality in which is was created. The author drank coffee when he woke up and maybe he walked his dog before he sat down to write the story before us. The author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is unknown to us, but we do know about the culture in which he lived, 1340-1400.

During his life he experienced the Hundred Years War and the Black Death. While he was alive the Wells Cathedral was under construction, Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, John Wycliff translated the Bible from Latin to English and the Great Schism was underway. Was Chaucer his friend? Did they compare  notes or discuss plot and structure? I wonder if someone in his family or maybe his best friends died in the war or from the bubonic plague?

Take a few minutes to read up on the culture in which Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written.


Three Great Writers: Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio

The beginning of the Italian Renaissance

Art and the Bible: Giotto

Aztecs established Tenochtitlan on the site of what is now modern Mexico City


Hundred Years’ War—English and French kings fight for control of France.


At least 25 million people die in Europe’s “Black Death” (bubonic plague).

1175 to 1490

Wells Cathedral has been described as “the most poetic of the English Cathedrals”

Enjoy this painting game called Paint the Cathedral


Ming Dynasty begins in China


John Wycliffe, pre-Reformation religious reformer, and followers translate Latin Bible into English.


Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales


The Great Schism (to 1417)—rival popes in Rome and Avignon, France, fight for control of Roman Catholic Church.

Women Artists in the Middle Ages

Knights in the Middle Ages

Knights Templar

Feudalism Pyramid

What about you? Have you ever poked around the culture of an author before reading his book?


Want Help Starting Your Book Club? Read This Post.

Want Help Starting Your Book Club? Read This Post.


  1. Most of the books that I have been recently reading are written recently, so “poking around the author’s culture” doesn’t really apply 🙂 But I find it fascinating that you compiled the list of such interesting historical facts. I love reading about many of them, and I often do – for pleasure and as research for my own books.

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