A Comparison between "Beowulf" and "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight"

Essay by selenebloodlustCollege, UndergraduateA, November 2007

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Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:The Importance of Literary Genre and Time Difference"They said that of all the kings upon earth / he was the man most gracious and fair-minded, / kindest to his people and keenest to win fame," (Beowulf 97 ln. 3180-82). This is a description of the great king Beowulf, from the epic poem of the same name. "…Sir Gawain you are, / Whom all the world worships, whereso you ride; / Your honor, your courtesy are higest acclaimed / By lords and by ladies, by all living men," (Sir Gawain 139 ln. 1226-29). This is a description of Sir Gawain, from the romantic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Both of these heroes are obviously very highly viewed by those around them, although almost 600 years separates the writing of the two manuscripts. Beowulf, an epic poem, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a romantic poem, are two great literary works, both with nameless and possibly countless authors, separated by literary genre and 6oo years of societal development.

Beowulf is an epic, and as such follows certain characteristics that are unique to this form of poetry. The key to any epic is its hero and his flaw; the hero is required to have a flaw because the epic is a form of serious and tragic poetry that allows for few lighthearted moments. This particular epic centers around a young and eager adventurer named, of course, Beowulf, who is fueled by a desire to be remembered forever as a great hero. His calling comes when "…a fiend out of hell, / began to work his evil in the world. / Grendel was the name of this grim demon / haunting the marshes, marauding round the heath / and the desolate...