The term “Hero” has been in our civilization for centuries. On the surface, a hero is a person of honor, integrity, and the will to fight for what he or she believes in. Nearly every story that is told is centered around a character who in one way or another is a hero. They are a person whom the common people are supposed to strive to be; but does this icon truly exist?
While the author of Beowulf is still a mystery, the greatness of the character that he or she created will live on forever. Beowulf is the model of what a hero was supposed to be in the middle ages. He was fearless in the face of death, nearly undefeatable, and cunning. Even as a king, Beowulf was generous and helped his people however he could.
“It was never [Beowulf’s] fortune to be helped in combat by the cutting edge of weapons made in iron. When he wielded a sword, no matter how blooded and hard-edged the blade his hand was too strong, the stroke he dealt would ruin it (lines 2677-2687)”
Beowulf was truly the perfect hero. However, this is, obviously, a fictional story. But did these heroes actually exist? Were there people who were both courageous and generous, who always stood up for what was right? In the fiction of this time, the answer is usually yes. However, as for the non-fictional stories, this was not necessarily the case.
The Art of Courtly Love was written by a monk at the end of the 11th century. The task was put on him to write a guide book so-to-speak for how the wealthy and powerful should go about falling in love, marriage, and things related to it. Obviously, a monk had no personal experience in these matters, so his writings must have been from observed experiences. These writings show how the members of the court truly were in these...
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...ake all my wealth, and let my body be.”
The knight begs the woman that just saved his life to let him be. Is this the chivalry that knights were supposed to follow? I believe that Chaucer was trying to show, thought the knights selfishness, that there was no true chivalry.
The hierarchy told stories of great warriors like Beowulf, who were selfless and fought for honor, and then wrote guides like the Art of Courtly Love, in which love is selfish and that those in power should take what they desire. I believe that, through literature, we can find the true answer to this issue: that the honor of the hierarchy was tool rather than a guide. A tool to have the lower class look up to them, to keep them in power because those less fortunate thought that they were heroes, rather than what they really were. Perhaps chivalry and honor are more concepts than reality.
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