Beowulf: The Selfless Hero
Beowulf is an epic poem that describes the heroics of a man with superhuman strength and bravery to go with it. The poem starts with a journey across the sea to defeat an enemy that has plagued the land of Herot for twelve years. The poem ends with Beowulf’s final deed of defeating a dragon that was plaguing his own land, but with the defeat of the dragon also comes the death of Beowulf. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a poem of bravery by one of King Arthur’s knights. Sir Gawain takes up the deed of playing a Christmas game with the challenging Green Knight. The Green Knight takes a blow from an ax at the hand of Sir Gawain, and in one year and one day, the Green Knight is to reciprocate the action to Sir Gawain. While Sir Gawain was heroic in his deed, Beowulf shows a certain selflessness in his bouts makes him a better hero than Sir Gawain.
Sir Gawain was heroic in seeking out the Green Knight to finish the challenge that was brought to King Arthur’s men. “Said Gawain, ‘Strike once more; /I shall neither flinch nor flee; /But if my head falls to the floor /There is no mending me!’” (lns. 2280-2283) There was no physical power that forced Sir Gawain to keep true to his word. Gawain sought out the Green Knight, just as he had promised, and was now about to receive the blow that would send him to his death. This quote shows that Sir Gawain was ready to be dealt his fate, and that he knew there was no way for him to survive as the Green Knight had done earlier in the poem. This shows a very human side to Sir Gawain as he appears somewhat afraid of death, but ready to face it nonetheless. It is this willingness and readiness to accept death at the hand of the Green Knight that makes Sir Gawain a...
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...in his willingness to lay down his life to fulfill the Green Knight’s request of King Arthur’s men. Beowulf is known among the people as a selfless hero in their times of need. Not only did Beowulf have immense physical strength, but he also had a burning desire for his people’s safety. It is for this selflessness and concern for others that Beowulf is the better hero.
Beowulf. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume A. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006. 34-100.
Sharma, Manish "Metalepsis and Monstrosity: The Boundaries of Narrative Structure in Beowulf." Studies in Philology 102.3 (2005): 247-279. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 30 Sept. 2009.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume A. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006. 162-213.
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The poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, tells of one knights struggle to uphold the code of chivalry. What makes a knight a noble knight? Why does this social standard force us to hold this individual to higher expectations? What should we think about Sir Gawain when he breaks his vows in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight? How does Sir Gawain and Arthur’s court pass the test of The Green Knight? This paper will argue that Sir Gawain, despite his mistakes, is the greatest knight because of his repentance and the lesson he learns when he encounters The Green Knight.
As a result, he learns an essential, inescapable fact about himself and human nature - there is no shame in being imperfect. The true test of Gawain's bravery was to bare his neck to the Green Knight and finish their trading of blows. Even with his 'magic' girdle, Gawain flinched the first time. The second and third times he was able to hold steady and accept fate. After the ordeal the Green Knight ridiculed him for his weakness and fear.
There are many things to take into consideration when characterizing a person as a hero. Heros are typically seen as people who accomplish brave deeds and fulfill noble tasks for the greater good of things. In the epic poem Beowulf by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet a hero is revealed. What makes Beowulf a hero is his unbelievable strength and power. He does not get discouraged or let anything stear him away from what he feels needs to be done for the safety of others. In his battles with the monster Grendel, Grendel’s mother and the dragon Beowulf exhibits his strength and will to fight. Beowulf, is loyal to his people and his king. What I feel is the most important quality of Beowulf, though, is his willingness to risk his life for the good
The medieval period occurred during the fourteenth century. It was a dark time that roamed Europe filled with many misfortunes such as the plague and a famine. However, the people emerge from this troubling time and went through a period of renewal and discovery especially when it came to literature, thus medieval literature is created. In medieval literature, storytellers tend to embellish and fantasy to add a dramatic effect to drawn the reader’s attention to allow them to share the meaning of the story or lessons to be learned from them. One of the most famous medieval literature that emerged from this period is, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This story is an example of the type of storytelling that was practiced during this time period.
It does this conceptually, by emphasizing human nature over chivalry, and it does this narratively through Gawain’s failure as a knight, and the Green Knight’s illegitimacy as a true villain. In traditional romance of this time, the protagonist could not have faltered in chivalry; Gawain’s “lapses of courage and honour… are highly untypical of the knightly conduct we find illustrated with such stultifying sameness in medieval story” (Shedd 245). But this occurs because the Green Knight is not the true villain; the real conflict is Gawain’s struggle against his own human nature. While the Green Knight appears to be a classic antagonist in the first part of the poem, he proves himself merciful and forgiving in the final part, stating that he does not blame Gawain because it was only because “[he] loved [his] own life” that he failed the final test (95). Rather than merely taking Sir Gawain’s head, the Green Knight gave him the opportunity to prove himself as “faultless” (95), or above his human nature, to “[purge] the debt” (96). Just as Shedd argues, the shift from external to internal conflict in the poem sets Sir Gawain and the Green Knight apart from other works of medieval romance.
Sir Gawain's inner values and character are tested to the fullest and are clearly defined in the text of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The unknown author describes Gawain and the other knights as "Many good knights" (Norton 159), and he is referred to as one of the "most noble knights" (Norton 159) in King Arthur's land. This claim by the author is solidified by a challenge presented by the evil Green Knight, who enters the court of King Arthur and asks him to partake in a Christmas game. Sir Gawain, after hearing this challenge, asks the king if he may take his place. This represents that Gawain is very loyal to his king. Sir Gawain is also an honest knight in the text because in a year's time he ventures out in search of the Green Knight to endure a blow with the ax as the rules of the game were stated. He very easily could have not have carried out his end of the bargain by not traveling to the Green Chapel to meet the evil being, but Gawain is an honest knight who is true to his word.
Some definitions for the word “Hero” include brave, noble, and admirable. And Sir Gawain is all of those words listed and more. Heroic characters are frequently placed on a pedestal. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, we encounter Sir Gawain, a character with very human qualities. See he was sort of a celebrity because he was King Arthur’s nephew. Man cannot be considered a hero unless he has overcome some sort of opposition. He must surmount some force within his own self in order to be dubbed a hero. Originally faced with the challenge of the Green Knight, Gawain must face temptation and less-than-heroic qualities within himself and he doesn’t necessarily overcome them all. Sir Gawain may be regarded as a heroic adventurer in his pursuit of the mysterious Green Knight. Through the poem, he presents himself with the upmost ideals of chivalry, honor, and honesty. In the poem, we find our hero is faced with a quest of amazing proportions. He represents a hero because the truest hero is one who learns from his mistakes. Sir Gawain realizes and understands where he has failed.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a poem which tells the tale of a knight who undergoes trials-testing the attributes of knighthood-in order to prove the strength and courage of himself, while representing the Knights of the Round Table. One of King Arthurs most noblest and bravest of knights, Sir Gawain, is taken on an adventure when he steps up to behead a mysterious green visitor on Christmas Day-with the green mans’ permission of course. Many would state that this tale of valor would be within the romance genre. To the modern person this would be a strange category to place the poem in due to the question of ‘where is the actual romance, where is the love and woe?’ However, unlike most romances nowadays, within medieval literature there are many defining features and characteristics of a romance-them rarely ever really involving love itself. Within medieval literature the elements of a romance are usually enshrouded in magic, the fantastic and an adventure. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight follows Sir Gawain over the course of one year, from one New Years to the next, as was the deal he and Bertilak, the green knight, struck.
Beowulf is a courageous and strong hero because he shows all of the qualities and traits that a true hero should possess. His actions toward Grendel show that he is willing to help others. Beowulf defeats Grendel, his mother, and a dragon until seriously injured. Beowulf has all of the characteristics that are expected from a hero. I definitely consider Beowulf being a hero because there are no other men who could accomplish all of the things that he did. He is a hero for many reasons, his bravery, generosity, strength, and power.
In Beowulf, the protagonist Beowulf is shown as a hero with extrodinary strength. This is not what makes him a hero. By definition, a hero is a man of exceptional quality. However this term does not do Beowulf justice. His self-imposed purpose in life is to help others, and eventually sacrifices his own life in doing so. Beowulf’s battle with the dragon serves as a critique of the notion that Beowulf is a hero. The Dragon section displays many of Beowulf’s heoric characteristics. Beowulf establishes himself as a hero by fighting the dragon, exemplifing strength and courage when fighting the dragon, and sacrificing himself so that others can live.
In the final scenes of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain’s encounter with Sir Bertilak allows Gawain to perceive his own flaws, manifested in his acceptance of the Green Girdle. The court’s reaction to his personal guilt highlights the disconnect between him and the other knights of the Round Table. Gawain’s behavior throughout the poem has been most noteworthy; his understanding of his sin, one that many of us would dismiss since it was propelled by his love of life, enhances his stature as a paragon of chivalry.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a poem about the journey of Knight Sir Gawain, who accepts a challenge from a green, mysterious knight and unknowingly puts himself through a test that reveals his unknightly and undoubtedly human flaws. Throughout the poem the Gawain-poet subtly hints that the chivalric code is impossible for one to live up to. His use of irony in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight mocks the chivalric values a knight is required to follow and instead makes an example out of Sir Gawain to give us a true and flawed perspective of a knight. This is shown in several ways: the Round Table’s reaction to the arrival of the Green Knight, Sir Gawain’s reasoning for accepting the challenge, his major worry throughout his journey, his
Beowulf displayed great courage and honor throughout his journeys and battles; he was an epic hero. An epic hero is a person who is viewed as larger than life and possesses values of a certain society. From the time of Beowulf’s battle with Grendel to his brawl against the dragon, he has showed everyone what being an honorable hero looks like. His heroism is revealed through both youth as a young warrior and wisdom as a reliable king. He never backed down and didn’t give up when situations were tough. Beowulf had obligations to fulfill and went about every aspect of his life with courage and strength. He cared for his people and was willing to take on anyone that threatened them or his kingdom. He sincerely was the hero of his time.