Beowulf Comparison Essay

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Although from two different time periods in history and in literature, the epic poem, Beowulf, translated by Burton Raffel, and the medieval poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Marie Borroff, both contain parallel elements as well as conflicting ones. These include their motive for why they risk their lives to go into battle, the good deeds that they accomplish along the way, and the wrongs that they correct in the end.
All characters have some sort of motive for doing something; however, that motive depends on the type of person they are and the type of person they want to be. Beowulf, a brave warrior, comes from a powerful ancestry with Edgetho, a famous soldier, being his father, and Higlac, Lord of the Geats, being his uncle. Beowulf, also being loved by the Geats for protecting and fighting for them, makes the journey to Denmark in hope to help Hrothgar kill Grendel. His motive is not only to protect the innocent people who have been suffering for years, but to also show how great and fearless he really is. This is shown when he gives his first speech where he talks himself up by saying, “ ‘They have seen my strength for themselves/ have watched me rise from the darkness of war/ dripping with my enemies blood…death was my errand and the fate they had earned,’ ” (Raffel 47-48 246-253). While Beowulf’s motive is partly for self-gain and recognition, Sir Gawain’s motive is directed only towards others. Sir Gawain is just one of the many knights at the round table, who at first, does not come forth to take the foreign Green Knights offer. When King Arthur eventually steps up in order to defend his people, Sir Gawain steps in to protect his king. He himself knows that his life means nothing in comparison to the ...

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... “ ‘I confess, knight, in this place/ Most dire is my misdeed/ Let me gain back your good grace/ And thereafter I shall take heed,’ ” (Borroff 183 474-477). Gawain is given back the girdle, the one that caused damage to the person who he strives to be, and this shows that he is able to live up to his mistakes and correct them so he will not commit them again.
Beowulf and Sir Gawain have many aspects, such as their motives, good deeds, and correcting of wrongs, in common. Many, however, seem to differ because of the type of person they are, want to be, and their drive in life. Beowulf is more self-centered yet helps those who support him while Sir Gawain protects others while having to fix the wrongs in himself. Throughout history and literature, whether ancient, classic, or modern, the idea of a perfect hero is so remote, due to their individualities as a person.
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