• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Two Different Heroes

Extracts from this document...


Two Different Heroes: A contrast between the ideals in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Beowulf A hero must always possess certain qualities such as bravery and honor, but the nature of heroism can vary greatly. Although superficially, some heroic figures may seem to be very different, these differences are accounted for because of the differences between the societies they lived in. The characters Beowulf, from Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney, and Gawain, from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Burton Raffel, the differences between Gawain's and Beowulf's heroism lie in the reasons for their bravery, the nature of their struggles, and their heroic codes, yet all of these differences can be explained in terms of their respective societies. In Beowulf, Beowulf makes a show of boasting his past deeds, as a form of self-advertisement. "...all knew of my awesome strength. / They had seen me bolstered in the blood of enemies / when I battled and bound five beasts, / raided a troll-nest in the night-sea / slaughtered sea-brutes" (Heaney, pg. ...read more.


"In he came then, the thane's commander, / the arch-warrior, to address Hrothgar: / his courage was proven, his glory was secure. / Grendel's head was hauled by the hair, / dragged across the floor where the people were drinking, / a horror for both queen and company to behold" (Heaney, 113). Beowulf has just killed Grendel's mother, and is bringing back Grendel's head as proof of his victory. Gawain's battle, on the other hand, is more often of a more spiritual nature, such as when he is forced to resist the temptations offered to him by the Green Knight's wife. "And so she tested him, pushed and probed, / Trying to tempt him, pretending love, / And Gawain was so gracefully evasive that he seemed / Always polite, and nothing happened / But happiness. / They laughed and fenced, / And at the end, / Offering a courtly kiss / off she went" (Raffel, pg. 96). The word choice in this passage clearly indicates that Gawain is fighting a battle, but it is an entirely different one from Beowulf's. ...read more.


By Gawain's era, however, the "Greatest of knightly virtues" defined a set of rules that corresponded to how the importance of morality had evolved since the Dark Ages. These two heroes are of a completely different scope, but the differences between them correspond to the differences in their time periods. While their respective societies both value bravery in one form or another, the criteria they set for how bravery is defined are very different. Beowulf defines bravery as a means of achieving fame through battles, whereas Gawain sees it as a more abstract concept, enveloping honor and other "knightly virtues." These differences are a direct cause of the difference in era of the events of these poems. In Beowulf's time, warfare was the only known way of life, which led to achievements in battle being more valued than anything else. By Gawain's era, feudalism had brought around the chivalric way of thinking, which involved doing good for the sake of good, as opposed to doing good for the sake of fame. These differences in thought directly caused the different sets of values that defined a hero. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Medieval section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Medieval essays

  1. Pity for the Damned. In the epic poem The Inferno by Dante Alighieri, ...

    Dante shows deep compassion for the bush simply by approaching it as if a physical human was crying. He breaks his nervous and confused mindset completely, exhibiting his change in heart and mind towards these tormented souls. Once the soul has rested in the bush, it has more concern for itself then when it was alive.

  2. Virtue and the 'endless figure' in the works of the Pearl-poet. The Pearl-poets works ...

    Interestingly, Aquinas imagines this sense of balance and equality as a unified organism: Virtues grow all together, proportionately like a man's fingers, sharing the one growth of prudence which makes virtue virtue. But because the inclinations which are the material for virtue are not necessarily equal, and vary with temperament,

  1. Dantes Divine Comedy. Discuss what you consider to be the most important allegorical features ...

    The next allegory is my own interpretation from the reading of Ulysses' journey, and of others' analysis. I would describe this as the allegory of the horses of the soul. In the 26th canto of the Inferno this can be seen as the passage 'Compare, as also in the Book of Kings: Elisha (once avenged by furious bears)

  2. Chaucers presentation of Troilus and Criseydes love reflects the insurmountable influences of the conventional ...

    Troilus presents Criseyde convincingly as a woman fully aware of her position in a male dominated world where she is doubly vulnerable - as a woman and the daughter of a traitor.29 Even Hector with his protests, 'We usen here no women for to selle,'30 cannot protect her.

  1. The main characters in Le Roman de la Rose and Sir Gawain and the ...

    The lover is in the verge of falling in love-the girl's love represented by the rose-all that he needs now is the help from the God of Love, who is ready to shoot his arrows and push the lover into the final stage of love.

  2. 'It is clear...that Chaucer used the couple relationship as a kind of open field ...

    Wife as she 'speke[s] of [the] wo that is in mariage' ('The Wife of Bath's Prologue', line 3). Nowhere is this more apparent than in the relationship she describes in her Prologue of the abusive husband she loves so much, Janekyn: For al swich thyng was yeven us in oure

  1. How are gender relationships depicted in Chaucers "Wife of Bath"?

    Chaucer makes us pity the husbands but it also shows us how unfairly women are usually treated. Chaucer outlines the Wife?s general techniques on how she handles Marital trouble which are lying, cheating and accusing the opposite gender before they accuse you.

  2. Comparing Beowulf with the Green Knight

    Beowulf was praised for his nobility when he was younger, but his aging only increased his lust for domination. He simply doesn?t care about the repercussions of his death, and how leaving them unprotected would severely impact his people. In conclusion, Beowulf recklessly battles this dragon to the death.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work