Within the epic poems Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, both eponymous heroes go through three prominent tests that define their personas and ultimately condition the rest of the lives. An emphatic theme that pervades Medieval books is the heroic ideal of honour, bravery, chivalry, and virtue. In Old English the warrior ideal entailed attaining great honour and position through victories of arduous battles. Beowulf is probably the most valiant hero in Old English poetry encapsulating these qualities through his fights with Grendel, Grendel's mother and the dragon. Moreover in Middle English, the concentrate shifted to more chivalrous worth of the knights of Arthur's beautified court, such as virtue and chastity. The ideals Sir Gawain is tried out for in his confrontations with the Green Knight, the lady of Bertilac's castle and the Green Knight once more in the Green chapel. This article will explore the similarities and distinctions between each trial of the heroes, as the reader witnesses these necessary exams in order for Beowulf and Sir Gawain to establish their ultimate valour.
Following this disturbing depiction of Grendel, the reader is horrified that Beowulf must put up with this lethal beast; facing his death. However H. L Rogers argues that Beowulf is "at the centre of the storyplot himself against possibilities; undaunted by fatality. ' Although reader appreciates it is impossible for Beowulf to perish at his first trial, they may be indulged in their worries of their warrior's fate. Against Grendel Beowulf uses neither weapons nor armour to protect himself, again reiterating his military prowess, and exclusively relies on his physical human strength to battle the 'satanic' fiend; it is almost as if Beowulf is not human himself. Towards the reader this is probably the most honourable form of struggle; Beowulf's valiance terminates Grendel's foreshadowed loss of life. Tolkien argues that 'men, each man and all men, and their works shall pass away. ' What he does not recognise, is the fact that with Beowulf's studies, his legacy remains an eternal way to obtain glory for him, even after his death at the ultimate trial. The type of the test is very brutal. Beowulf violently tears Grendel's arm from his body using only brute durability, thus this struggle is the faultless introductory test for Beowulf.
'What, is is Arures hous at al e rous rennes of ru ryalmes so mony?' (lines 309 -10)
[What! Is this Arthur's house? About which stories tell you so many realms?]
In comparison, Beowulf intentionally pursues Grendel to glorify his stature. Subsequently, as the knight paradoxically calls Gawain's test a 'game' it is in fact a loss of life inflicting beheading that transcends into a binding legal contract. The lexical selection of 'gomen' connotes that fatality is only playtime because of this knight. Beowulf's battle with Grendel was out of necessity as Hrothgar's kingdom was under siege with countless warriors dying at Grendel's desire for food. However the Gawain-poet deceptively masquerades the 'moral seriousness' of this seemingly futile beheading game till the ultimate fitt of this poem.
Both Beowulf and Sir Gawain are next attempted by women, however once again Beowulf endures a bodily arduous and bloody battle with Grendel's mother avenging her useless child. Conversely Gawain is sexually lured by Lord Bertilac's wife, demure with medieval beauty, which practically leads to his undoing.
The second trial proves more vigorous for Beowulf as he swims for approximately a day to attain the 'lwihta eard' [alien animals' abode] (range 1500), dressed in his adorned armour. The Beowulf-poet illustrates Beowulf in such a way that it appears nigh impossible for this noble hero to be defeated, particularly after his pleased has preceding each battle. However Grendel's mother, despite being feminine, can fiercely harm Beowulf debilitating him into arguably a ragdoll and lastly sitting upon him. Critics argues that at this time a convolute erotic appeal lingers between Beowulf and Grendel's mother, nonetheless it is unequivocal that Beowulf is in undeniable risk as she seeks for his shoulder echoing the death of her son. The supposed immortal is now fallible; as he battles to defeat Grendel's mother the battle-sword.
'hondgemota, helm oft gescr,
Fges fydhrgl a ws forma' (lines 1526-27)
[Side encounters had slice through the doomed one's battle garments]
Whereas previously Beowulf required no assistance from weaponry or armour, it is currently evident that he would not have had the opportunity to succeed in his second trial. Rogers argues that despite this 'feminine monster was weaker that her boy, Beowulf had a more desperate battle to conquer her. ' Ironically the reader feels a sense of sympathy for for this antagonist, she did not attack Hrothgar's courtroom unprovoked, she is not merely a satanic descendant of Cain, but a maternal body mourning and grieving the fatality of her 'ngan eaferan' [only son] (line 1547).
However Sir Gawain's screening was of seduction, emotional manipulation and his virtue. While Gawain loves a short interlude before the last confrontation with the Green Knight, he is cornered in his bedroom by Bertilac's better half attempting to lustfully wanting to seduce him. Spearing argues that 'there can surely be without doubt that here it is Gawain's chastity that has been tested. ' Out of this quotation it is evident that in Middle English's chivalric heroic, the knight needed to be tested through romance in order to verify his 100 % pure virtue; contradicting Beowulf, where no love interest is ever before present, his testing was of valour.
'He looked after his cortaysye, lest craayn he were,
And more for his meschef, if he should make synne' (lines 1773-74)
However on the 3rd day despite her rebuking Gawain's manners for rejecting her, he only allows a renewable girdle that will protect him from any damage. Along with the Green Knight in mind, he fails to exchange his winnings with Lord Bertilac as part of their exchange game; breaking his promises. Although Gawain effectively repels sexual developments he fails in the test of 'trawe' [truthfulness]. Like Beowulf, sir Gawain comes vulnerable at his second trial. Ironically the females that are belittled through the lack of identity, act as the heroes most challenging thus far, forcing the reader to expect their downfall. Another variance between your second trials would be that the reader will not evoke sympathy for the Lady of the castle, but rather, for Gawain as he's pushed ever closer to the damage of his 'trawe'. Alas, in the retaining her girdle, he does indeed and the storyline sharply entangles Gawain in an internet of deceit.
The third and last test of Beowulf and Gawain, the pinnacle climax of each poem, is where they both face their fatality. Beowulf senses his own loss of life preceding the struggle with the dragon; likewise, Gawain before confronting the Green Knight once again in the chapel.
' heals ealne ymbefeng
Biteran banum, ' (lines 2691- 92)
[Clenched his whole neck between pointed tusks]
Tolkien explains that the wicked aspect of heroic is 'malice, greed and damage', however this must be refuted as the noble, honourable Beowulf is offered throughout his life as a valiant head faithful to his Lords and Later his people. It is not greed that consumes him in the end. William Lawrence argues that 'a great slayer of trolls ought never to perish in his bed, tamely, but in glorious combat with a valuable foe. ' Equally the dragon is the perfect end for Beowulf, Grendel was his perfect start.
Gawain's final tests is when he awaits the green Knight's retaliatory blow, planning on his fatality. In concealing the girdle from Bertilac, his dishonesty honors him a minute cut after his neck of the guitar; paralleling Beowulf's neck injury also. At this time Gawain flinches in dread, dissimilar to Beowulf who was always steadfast, and the moment of retrospective brightness occurs as the Knight reveals himself to be Lord Bertilac. The warfare present in Sir Gawain is subconscious, discordant from Beowulf which is often physical. The moral of Gawain's last testing is that 'trawe' is a virtue that should encapsulate any noble knight. Whilst Beowulf dies, he is honoured for his preeminent valour that reverberates throughout Old British literature. Sir Gawain on the other side, sins, repents, and subsequently the object of his downfall, the girdle, ironically becomes the mark of his renowned popularity as the courteous knight in Middle English.
In realization Beowulf the epic poem terminates as it will, with the apotheosis of Beowulf. Tolkien argues that 'Beowulf is in fact not an epic; it is actually a heroic-elegiac poem. ' This is a valid debate; after Beowulf's turmoil throughout his imaginary life, this poem was written in devotion to his recollection of triumphant deeds. With Sir Gawain Putter claims that 'without human truthfulness social relationships are as volatile as individual dreams. ' The crux of both these poems is the fact after physical and mental evaluation, Beowulf and Gawain go up as the best infallible heroes of Medieval Books.
2, 064 words
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