Beowulf vs. Sir Gawain

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Many works of literature from the same era often have similar story lines and themes. In the epic poems of Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, both of these epic poems seem to have much in common. Each story seems to emphasize truth, honor, and heroism are the most important qualities a person can demonstrate. While both stories seem to have the similar qualities there are also many differences. All the qualities emphasized are exhibited differently. It seems that although heroism is emphasized in the two epic poems, the times and places shape the way heroism is perceived.

The heroic characters described in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight correspond to in their attitudes, their heroic adventures, and their relationship to others in their society different moral codes, but each character has a set of standards and moral codes. Beowulf and Sir Gawain are such very different kinds of heroes that are heavily dependent on the time in which the heroic events took place. While Beowulf fights his battles to achieve fame and glory, Gawain battles the Green Knight in service to Arthur. There personal characteristics determine the outcomes of the works.

The greatest value of Beowulf is his bravery. There is no uncertainty that he is a great combatant. Beowulf's heroism belongs to a different time than that of Sir Gawain. For that reason his bragging about his prowess might seem decidedly unheroic. When he tells Unferth "I count it true that I had more courage, More strength in swimming than any other man" (514-15 (41) it might be interpreted in a poor way. Nevertheless, bragging aside, Beowulf is undoubtedly a brave man. When Beowulf sets out to kill Grendel's mother he simply "donned his armor for battle, Heeded not the danger..." (1328-29 60). When his sword fails him he uses his substantial strength: "On the might of his hand, as a man must do Who thinks to win in the welter of battle Enduring glory; he fears not death" (1420-23 62)....
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