Tracing Loyalty Through The Selected Classics Essay

, Research Paper

Loyalty is a theme found in many classics. The three classics that are discussed in this paper are _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_, written by an unknown author, _The Odyssey_ by Homer, and _Don Quixote_, written by Miguel de Cervantes. In all three of the masterpieces loyalty can be traced through the characters action and words. Loyalty is evident in the characters behaviors to one another or maybe through a test they endure. In _The Odyssey_, _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_, and _Don Quixote_ loyalty is apparent throughout the story.

_The Odyssey_ is believed to have been written by Homer and is infused with loyalty throughout the entire epic story. Odysseus is the most faithful, loving, and loyal husband, to Penelope, that any woman could dream of. Odysseus, in the beginning of his description of the trials and tribulations that he has endured, pledged his eternal loyalty to his ever-faithful wife Penelope. “We are mortal weary and sick at heart/… [if only] now may I see once more/ my hall, my lands, my people before I die!” (Homer 7:233-240). Thought Odysseus did lie with the goddess his loyalty to Penelope held true. The “Enchantress in her beauty” (Homer 7:274) enslaved the grand Odysseus to her will; yet Odysseus “in [his] heart [he] never gave consent.” (Homer 7:276) The goddess offered Odysseus a choice, the “promise [that he] should be/ immortal, [and] youthful, all the days to come” (Homer 7:275-276) or to continue his long continuous voyage to his queen Penelope. Because Odysseus chose to return to his devoted Penelope instead of gaining immortal life he has provided evidence of his loyalty to Penelope.

Another indication of loyalty seen in _The Odyssey_ is in Penelope’s fidelity to Odysseus. Penelope waited a long, lingering twenty years for her beloved Odysseus return to Ithaka and into her arms. Penelope proved her loyalty by “wearing out [her] lifetime with desire/ and sorrow, mindful of [her] lord, good man/” (Homer 18:229-230). Even though the pestering suitors were like vulture swarming in on fresh meat Penelope was able to hold them at bay with her faithful devotion to her mighty Odysseus. In order to do this the cunning and wily Penelope lead them to believe that she would marry one of them only to later let them down. She used the weaving of the funeral shroud for Lord Laertes to keep them under control. “So everyday she wove on the loom-/ but every night by torchlight she unwove it;” (Homer 1:110-111). Attestation of Penelope’s loyalty to Odysseus is the unweaving of the shroud because she did not want to marry one of the suitors and had full confidence in her beloved king’s return. The archery test that Penelope purposes is functioning to hold off the suitors, for none are a match for Odysseus, as well as prompting Odysseus to proving himself to her. “Upon Penelope, most worn in love and thought, / Athena cast a glance like a gray sea/ lifting her. Now to bring the tough bow out and bring/ the iron blades. Now try those dogs at archery.” (Homer 21:1-4). Penelope tests Odysseus to make him prove that it is he before she will trust him. The test of the bedpost that she puts to Odysseus once again proves Penelope’s

fidelity. “Forgive me, don’t be angry. I could not/ welcome you with love on sight!” (Homer 23:216-217). Penelope’s devotion held strong and she would not accept him until he proved himself. “ Their secret!” (Homer 23:206) shared was Odysseus’s key to her loyalty and her test.

Another hint of loyalty in _The Odyssey_ was the treatment Odysseus’s men received from him. Odysseus gave his men his loyalty and to help them to return home he saved them from the lotos eaters. When his men “fell in, soon enough, with the lotos eaters, /… [they became] forgetful of their homeland. / [and he] drove them, wailing, to the ships, / [and] tied them down under their rowing benches” (Homer 9:95-103). Odysseus, once again proving his loyalty to his crew members, saved them from Kirke when they were turned into swine. “Put heart in me to eat and drink- you may, / by freeing my companions. I must see them.” (Homer 10:418-419) By refusing food or drink until his men are free the honorable Odysseus upholds his loyalty to his crew. _The Odyssey_ is not the only classic that has the theme of loyalty.

_Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_ is believed to be written during the fourteenth century around 1380 A.D. by an unknown author. The theme of Loyalty is found throughout the entire story of _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_; whether it is through Gawain’s loyalty to his uncle, King Arthur, of through the tests of loyalty faced by Gawain proposed by Morgan le Fay to Bercilak. Sir Gawain attests his loyalty to King Arthur by accepting the challenge of the Green Knight. “I beseech you, before all here, / That this mele may be mine.” (Gawain 341-342) In order to keep Arthur from losing face in front of his court Gawain accepts the challenge and humbles himself and his peers while doing so. “ When such boon is begged before all these knights, / Though you be tempted thereto, to take it upon yourself/ While so bold men about upon benches sit, /… I am the weakest, well I know. And of wit feeblest;/ And the loss of my life would be least of any;/… And for that this folly befits not a king,” (Gawain 349-358). Because no other knights undertook the confrontation and King Arthur felt obligated to accept it himself Sir Gawain’s loyalty stepped in and took the challenge.

Sir Gawain’s entire journey to the Green Chapel was the idea of Morgan le Fay to test the loyalty of King Arthur’s renowned court. Although Gawain did fail the test of loyalty and honor imposed be Morgan le Fay the thread of loyalty is still apparent. On the third day of the gift giving game Gawain received a green belt for Bercilak’s seductive wife. The only reason Sir Gawain accepted the green sash was because the lady preyed upon his fears about the imminent encounter with the Green Knight. “The man that possess this piece of silk, / If he bore it on his body, belted about, / There is no hand under heaven that could hew him down, / for he could not be killed by any craft on earth.” (Gawain 1851-1854) Because Gawain accepted the girdle from the lady and did not give it to Bercilak as agreed upon he failed the test. Loyalty is seen throughout both _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_ and _Don Quixote_.

Don Quixote, a story written by Miguel de Cervantes, describes the afflicted madman Don Quixote’s journey that which is permeated with loyalty. Don Quixote pledged his love and loyalty to Dulcinea del Toboso. The knight-errant, Don Quixote de La Mancha, fight two deadly duels to protect Lady Dulcinea’s reputation. “Commending himself with all his heart to his lady Dulcinea, as was his custom before a fray…” (Cervantes 2062). While defending his lady’s honor to the Knight of Mirrors he stands his ground. “And if this does not suffice to convince you of the truth of what I say, here is Don Quixote himself who will maintain it by force of arms, on foot or on horseback, or in any way you like.” (Cervantes 2040). Don Quixote bade all of the people he has helped to call on Dulcinea del Toboso to profess his great deeds proving his love and loyalty to her. When Don Quixote saw the men marching “strung together by their necks like beads on an iron chain.” (Cervantes 2008) he mistakenly rushes to their aid and proceeds to direct them to the city of El Toboso and his Lady Dulcinea. “He summoned all the prisoners… and addressed them… [with]…it is fitting that those wellborn should give thanks for the benefits they have received… it is my will and desire that you should set out and proceed to the city of El Toboso and there present yourselves before the lady Dulcinea del Toboso and say to her that her champion… has sent you.” (Cervantes 2014), unfortunately Don Quixote believed, because he was mad that he needed to prove his loyalty to Dulcinea del Toboso, who does not know that a Don Quixote de La Mancha even exists.

Another example of loyalty in _Don Quixote_ is that of Sancho Panza to Don Quixote. Sancho Panza is Don Quixote’s ever-faithful squire. Sancho was truly distressed when he believed Don Quixote to be dead. Sancho “flung himself across his master’s body and was weeping and wailing… O honor of your life, honor and glory of all of Lam Mancha and of all of the world, witch, with you absent from it… humble with the proud, haughty with the humble, brave in facing dangers, long-suffering under outrages, in love without reason, imitator of the good, scourge of the wicked, enemy of the mean-in a word, a knight-errant, which is all there is to say.” (Cervantes 2018-2019). This proves Sancho Panza’s loyalty for he is unwilling to give up or leave his master. During the encounter with the Knight of Mirrors’ squire Sancho once again professes his loyalty to Don Quixote when the squire suggests he is a fool and he should pursue the pastimes of a man who is not a knight-errant’s squire. “[Don Quixote] would not harm anyone but does good to all, there is no malice in his make-up… for that very reason I love him with all my heart and could not bring myself to leave him, no matter how many foolish thing he does.” (Cervantes 2036).

Examples of loyalty can be found in many pieces of classic literature such as _Don Quixote_, _The Odyssey_, and _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_. Many characters in the stories profess their loyalty to other characters. Some of them fail in their loyalty tests while others prevail. I found loyalty to be an underlying theme in all three pieces of literature covered in this paper. The examples provided should prove the theme of loyalty.


Cervantes, Miguel. _Don Quixote_. Lawall 1960-2071.

Homer. _The Odyssey_. Lawall 209-513.

Lawall, Sarah and Maynard Mack, Eds. _The Norton Anthology of world masterpieces: The Western Traditions_. New York. 1999.

_Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_. Lawall 1458-1585.


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