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Heroics Beowulf vs Gawain - Matthew Charette Professor...

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Matthew Charette Professor Chaplin ENG 221 February 19, 2008 The heroic ideals found in “Beowulf” and “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” are much alike, but they do also carry on their own differences. Being from different time periods over time heroism evolves. “Beowulf” was written somewhere between the 8 th and 11 th century while “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ” was written in the late 14 th century, so it is clear that the progress of ideals over about five centuries would change. Both portray the same image of heroes whose goals are aimed at saving the face of the king and society. As long as they please the views of social convention, they are seen as heroes. Both Beowulf and Sir Gawain possess similar definitions of hero in their society therefore, they behave in a similar manner. Beowulf predominantly portrays a warrior-like hero role. He earns his respect, honor, and pride through the tip of his sword. The Anglo-Saxon culture was governed by the ideals of bravery, loyalty and generosity. The king or lord surrounded himself with a band of retainers, who are rewarded with the spoils of their victories. The retainers are duty-bound to fight for their lord to the death, and if he is killed, to take revenge or die in the attempt. Another key ideal of this era was the “wergild”, the man price. It is regarded as a sacred duty. The man price is value of life for a life or life for equivalent payment on their value. Throughout “Beowulf” the struggle for paying the dues of the man price began with him slaying Grendel. Beowulf is a hero for a night. Then to return the price for the loss of her son Grendel’s Mother murders Aeschere,
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one of Hrothgar’s trusted advisers. To avenge Aeschere’s death, the company travels to the
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