Beowulf/Sir Gawain Comparison Essay, Research Paper
Expository Writing Assignment
Comparison / Contrast
Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Both the Anglo Saxon epic poem Beowulf, and the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight describe a heroic ideal proved in the battle. The first, Beowulf, is dated back as far as the 8th century ad. Sir Gawain and the Green knight was created five centuries later, in 14th Century, when the Alliterative revival in English literature turned back to the ideals and literary forms of Anglo Saxon poems. Sir Gawain and the Green knight is very much alike Beowulf in the verse form and narrative style, it has similar conflict and it also celebrates the victory of fearless and brave heroes. But despite all similarities of these two literary masterpieces, they are different. Time changes ideals. Different time periods and societies have different ideals and values, and these two poems serve as a perfect example of this fact.
The epic of Beowulf is the highest achievement of Old English literature that inherits the Germanic heroic tradition. Like most European legends of that time it confronts its hero, Beowulf, with evil. The evil is represented in a poem by a supernatural creature, Grendel. Beowulf comes from a land far away to rescue a civilization from this threat. Beowulf is of noble birth; he is loyal to his people and his king, My people have said that my duty was to go to the Danes Great king , (Jovanovich B., p.15, 150). He is fearless in protecting his people and the whole world as mighty protector of men (Jovanovich B., p.19, 310). Beowulf is a true believer in fate, he says that God must decide Who will be given to death s cold grip (Jovanovich B., p.15, 174), but he relies on his strength and the ideal he fights for, too. Beowulf knows that Grendel is not afraid of any weapons and he is ready to face the challenge barehanded. my hands Alone shall fight for me, struggle for life Against the monster (Jovanovich B., p.15, 172). Beowulf s strength is exaggerated in the description of his battle with Grendel, but the battle itself grows to a global scale. His victory is a victory of a superhero over the evil on Earth. He is proud of his feat the Danes Had been served as he d boasted he d serve them (Jovanovich B., p.19, 348). Beowulf is a real hero of his time the warrior, bold and strong-minded (Jovanovich B., p.19, 345), having no mercy to the enemy, no regret for enemy s sufferings, glorious victor, worth to rule over men (Jovanovich B., p.20, 380). He perfectly represents Anglo-Saxon ideals of noble conduct, such as bravery and love of glory, allegiance to king and lord, and belief in the inevitability of fate.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the English medieval romances, celebrating chivalry and the knightly virtues high ideals of the time of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. This was a time when disputes were settled by ordeals. The main conflict in the poem is an ordeal, that is the personal combat between two knights. The hero, Sir Gawain, is King Arthur s cousin and one of the Knights of the Round Table. He takes an honor to face the challenge of the Green Knight, who calls Arthur s knights bragging boasts and big words, fainting with fear, when no fight is offered. The Green Knight is not a supernatural creature (even though some fantastic elements are present, which is natural for romantic poem). Confrontation that Sir Gawain accepts is human-to-human ordeal to prove that accusations are false. The readiness to take an ordeal proves his courage, and his blow shows his enormous strength. But his courage and knightly honor are highly confirmed mostly by keeping his word to the Green Knight. Sir Gawain makes a difficult journey to keep his faith and accept the return blow. He knows that he came to face his doom and nevertheless arrives. He says, By Christ, it s Satan who struck me with this meeting, I feel it! He s sent me here to destroy me (Jovanovich B., p89, 34 35). Sir Gawain is not perfect and he commits certain actions that are natural for human, but improper for a knight to take. He does not live up to the expectations in chivalry when the lady convinces him to wear her girdle as assurance he will be magically protected from evil. When the Green Knight swings his axe first time, Sir Gawain, who tries to be the ideal, cannot help but flinch from the swing of the weapon. He tried to seem Fearless, but his knees Were weak (Jovanovich B., p 91, 98 – 100), seeing the blade whistle through the air he pulled his shoulders back, just a bit. (Jovanovich B., p 92, 108). Moreover, along with the threat of death, he has to withstand the Green Knight s taunts. Sir Gawain challenges him in response, Perhaps you are frightened yourself with these threats? (Jovanovich B., p.92, 142). He is as courteous as brave: when the edge of the ax snipped his skin, he is ready to fight, but first he courteously speaks to his enemy. In any situation Sir Gawain remains an exemplary warrior, approved by the Green Knight as having real courage, honor, and moral purity.
Two heroes Beowulf and Sir Gawain are heroes of their time. Both are honest, brave, strong leaders, but Sir Gawain is much more civilized, sensitive and courteous. He represents moral rules that simply did not exist at the time of Beowulf, when the strength was a primary requirement for a warrior. Their similarities are based mostly on the physical characteristics, but all the differences are caused by different ideals of their time. It is evident, that ideals of the society prevail in the conduct of the people in any ordeals, and the ideals of the time make the hero who he is.