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Comparing Beowulf with the Green Knight

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Introduction

´╗┐Matthew DeRosa Elias 9/26/12 Survey of English Literature Essay #1B When it comes to groundbreaking, classical literature, not many works can trump what Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight have done. Although similar through importance, readers would be hard pressed to discover any more similarities between the two. Beowulf is an epic poem from the Anglo-Saxon period, while Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a tale from the medieval period. The main characters of each novel, Beowulf and Sir Gawain, each endure personal struggles in the ?problem of pride.? In completely separate fashions, both of them lust for domination (libido dominandi) throughout each of their respective stories. Beowulf, the earliest of epic heroes, was significantly known for his bravery. With his lack of fear for death, he without a doubt was known as the greatest warrior at the time. However with great skill and the constant appraisal from fellow warriors, Beowulf becomes very boastful in his continued desire for dominance. In fact, his first words of the tale were, ?When I was younger, I had great triumphs. Then news of Grendel, hard to ignore, reached me at home.? Off the bat, he introduces himself as an accomplished warrior who felt it was his duty to slay the monster Grendel the minute he heard about his destruction. Beowulf revels in his decision to come over from Geatland to protect King Hrothgar and his people. ...read more.

Middle

Personal honor and valor seemed to be the two most important aspects of his life. Differing from Beowulf, Sir Gawain?s quest is a moral epic, and not one of physical attrition. However, Sir Gawain?s libido dominandi stems from his false humility, or in other words, his refusal to accept human failure. In the introduction of the story, the Green Knight travels over to King Arthur?s castle and demonstrates his Christmas game. At first, Arthur is asked to be put to the test, but in an act of chivalry, Sir Gawain (Arthur?s nephew/right hand man at the knight?s roundtable) steps up. He explains, ?While so bold men about upon benches sit, That no host under heaven is hardier of will, Nor better brothers-in-arms where battle is joined; I am the weakest, well I know, and of wit feeblest; And the loss of my life would be least of any.? It is almost as if Sir Gawain undersells himself so much, to only further enhance his heroism. During his travels the corresponding winter season, Sir Gawain?s internal conflicts continue. He is fighting against his own demons; there is no Grendel (or any other physical monster for that matter) in this story, just a desire for moral reformation and satisfaction from others. In his stay at the Bertilak of Hautdesert?s castle, Sir Gawain?s morale is only further boosted. Bertilak states, ?As long as I may live, my luck is the better that Gawain was my guest at God?s own feast!? In response, Sir Gawain quickly deflects the compliment and explains that the honor is his. ...read more.

Conclusion

Should he deny the sexual advances because it was another man’s wife, therefore it was a sin against God, or should he accept the lady’s wishes out of honor and respect. The theme of temptation becomes the heart of this tale, as Sir Gawain’s adherence to the code of chivalry is constantly put to the test. After rejecting the first two advances, Sir Gawain begins to crack a little during the third and final bedroom scene. Bertilak’s wife changes her evasive language to a more assertive style, and her attire (moderate in earlier scenes) suddenly becomes risqué and revealing. He declares, “My body is here at hand; your each wish to fulfill; your servant to command I am, and shall be still.” Gawain gives in due to the laws of chivalry, where knights are required to respect the set of laws concerning courtly love, and do whatever a damsel asks. The Green Knight also plays a huge role in continuing with the “doubleness” theme. This character is extremely difficult to interpret as some view him as a devilish figure whose only purpose is to tempt Gawain into sin, while some view him as a holistic figure whose purpose is to build Gawain into becoming an improved knight. In the Green Knight’s introduction to the Christmas party, he arrives with a holly branch and an axe. The holly branch represents peace and happiness, while the axe is supposed to represent violence and death. Furthermore, he states, “Not all, I think, for dread, but some of courteous grace let him who was their head be spokesman in that place. ...read more.

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