A Comparison of Beowulf and Sir Gawain

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A Comparison of Beowulf and Sir Gawain

A hero is someone who is idealized for his courage and noble qualities. Beowulf and Sir Gawain can certainly be called heroes. They both have many qualities that are expected of heroic knights and warriors. They are both brave, gallant, and skilled men, but are they the perfect heroes their people believe them to be? While they are portrayed as perfect heroes and they possess many heroic qualities, Beowulf and Sir Gawain are far from perfect.

Beowulf and Gawain are shown as great leaders. Sir Gawain is liked by most people he has met. Beowulf has many loyal followers by his side. Beowulf and Sir Gawain are both brave and loyal. They attempt to honor their kings and kingdoms. Those are all qualities of a hero.

Though Sir Gawain is brave, Beowulf seems more naturally heroic. He goes to the land of the Danes of his own volition. His king does not order him to go. He tells his king that he wishes to go help the Danes defeat Grendel, because he believes he can and should. His people support him because they know what a great warrior and leader he is. He also wants to help King Hrothgar because his father was in debt to Hrothgar and he wants to pay that debt. He wants to honor his father and his father’s word. Beowulf holds himself to a code of honor when he does not have to do so. He risks his life for a country he is not a part of.

In every battle Beowulf fights, he fights honorably. When he fights Grendel, he uses no weapons because Grendel fights unarmed. He only uses weapons to fight the dragon and Grendel’s mother because he cannot win otherwise. He does not cheat. He does not use unfair advantages. Beowulf fights with honor. Throughout his life, Beowulf fought many heroic battle...

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...ves him self to be the least worthy of life and praise. He tells King Arthur, “Think of your bold knights, bursting to fight, as ready and willing as men can be…And I am the slightest, the dullest of them all; My life the least, my death no loss,” (Raffel 58). Sir Gawain is very humble before his King. He offers his life in place of King Arthur’s.

Beowulf is very prideful. He boasts about his tasks as often as he can. He likes to showboat his heroism and bravery. When Unferth challenges Beowulf’s honor and calls him a liar and a loser, Beowulf does not take it well. He calls Unferth a liar and a murderer and immediately tells Hrothgar’s court what really happened during the swimming match that Unferth was referring to. Beowulf is driven by his need to be an honorable and well-respected man. The honor he seeks is not wholly for his King’s glory, but for himself.
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