Honour in Beowulf, Arthur, and Wife of Bath

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Many different traits and characteristics are thrown together to create the heroes of a story. They are usually the brave, noble types, not out for greed or glory, hoping for love, but living through chivalry. Heroes are also seen as the most honourable character in the tale. But what exactly is honour? To be truly honourable, a man must embody three main characteristics: loyalty, compassion and the willingness to forgive. Two protagonists that portray these traits are King Arthur and Beowulf, each of whom plays the prime role in their self-titled tales. Acts of loyalty appear multiple times in both tales as the characters are tested and tried through each event. In Andrea Hopkins's compilation the Chronicles of King Arthur, Arthur's loyalty to the Camelot and the ideals that built it are constantly scrutinized as his wife, Guinevere, has an affair with his noblest of knights, Lancelot. He knows of this happening, but chooses to ignore the acts, knowing that the public attacks from it could internally lead the kingdom to ruin (p. 164). Loyalty also appears in The Longman Anthology's version of Beowulf, when Beowulf returns to his homeland and his king, bearing fruitful amounts of gifts that he had earned while serving Hrothgar and his country. All of his plunder and rewards he handed over to his King and his Queen, offering them as "proof of [his] fealty" (1889). Beowulf's overwhelming allegiance to his kin brought him back from a foreign land, and led him to give all of his treasures away to those who were the dearest to him. The ideals of compassion brings out the different levels of kindness, chivalry and love that most would expect a hero to openly portray. Arthur's apparent love for his fellow knights is constantly pointed out as he narrates his feelings during the separation of his round table during the Quests for the Holy Grail. It is written that his "heart was filled with pride, and yet sorrow" (p. 135). His reign as king had never put him so close to...
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