Imagery in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Landscape and images of nature in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Beowulf is thought to have been written at the end of the Anglo-Saxon period around the year 1000. It is the first great epic poem in the English language. Its authorship is unknown but is attributed to an unnamed scribe, working in a monastic centre somewhere in the south of England. The work is a peculiar hybrid, an infusion of pagan Germanic history that is overlaid with a decidedly Christian commentary. It is at once a nostalgic, celebratory account of an Anglo-Saxon man, a hero who faces extraordinary challenges. Yet, this celebration is continually undercut by reminders of the transitory nature of this life. The author continually reminds the reader that there is an inevitable end — that change and reversal come to even the greatest of people, and the most preeminent of men. The theme of reversal is explored further in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, thought to have been written in the late 14th century. The alliterative poem is also a hybrid. It is an amalgam of elements stemming from the Arthurian and French courtly romances. The resulting product that has come down to us is a body of work in which legendary heroes from history navigate tricky cultural negotiations within chivalric culture. In this way, Sir Gawain differs from Beowulf in that it is a re-interpretation of heroic values. The story retains themes of bravery, honour and loyalty, however the challenges move from external, physical conflicts to internal, moral ones. Although written in different time periods, Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight have some remarkable similarities regarding their themes and structures. First of all, the poems share common ideas regarding the type of qualities that heroes possess such as bravery, honour and truth. Beowulf and Sir Gawain exemplify these heroic qualities for they are both willing to face mortal danger in order to protect their superiors and their people....
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