An Analysis of Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
As there are many biblical references in the poem, so are there pagan inclined ones. For example, Beowulf’s immortality represents Christ’s body after resurrection, while Grendel is representative of the devil. Therefore Beowulf is to Christianity, as Grendel is to the pagan religion. That is why Beowulf is seen as the only character in the poem that can cause harm or kill Grendel (Gardner 15-25).
Women are depicted as adorable creatures whose roles are to sexually satisfy their husbands. They do not go to war as their male counterparts. Theirs is to support their husbands with whatever they need during times of war (Webstar 6-10). Both Wealhtheow and Grendel’s mother are depicted as being perfect in beauty. In particular, Grendel pictures his mother’s whenever he sees Wealhtheow, suggesting that women in both contexts are highly regarded as beautiful and adorable creatures (Gardner 15-25).
The narrative speaks of monsters as evil. This is evident when humans begin to attack Grendel, upon being found caught in a tree. However, his mother rescues him. It is clear from the narrative that there is no crime that the gang of humans give as a reason to seek Grendel’s life. On the contrary, Grendel highly admires the human culture, an indication that monsters too can coexist with humans without harming them. The societal notion that monsters are evil is therefore unfounded (Gardner 15-25).
In the two poems, Beowulf and Gawain have different character traits. While Beowulf is merciless, Gawain has traces of tenderness. For example, Beowulf inflicts pain on Grendel without consideration. Gawain on the other hand is considerate, by virtue of being able to empower his opponents. This clearly shows that the two are different in their traits. Also, Beowulf is depicted as being superhuman, whereas Gawain is mortal, as he can feel pain and even die (Martin 11). In the two poems, Gawain and Beowulf are heroes. Beowulf’s battle with Grendel is pictured as an act of salvation, as he bears resemblance to Christ’s resurrection and eventual destruction of the Devil. Similarly, Gawain is depicted as a hero since he pleads with Virgin Mary for spiritual guidance during times of war with monsters. He has to defeat them to save humanity (Webstar 3-4). In the two poems therefore, the themes of human salvation, spirituality, and religion are manifest themselves. This is because both Beowulf and Gawain have to suffer to save humankind. Besides, Gawain prays for spiritual guidance and protection from Virgin Mary (Gardner 15-25).
Masculinity is a dominant culture of the medieval romance. Gawain is aggressive as men are. He is ready to get what he wants by aggression and war. What threatens his masculity are the advances that the lady in Bertilak’s house makes on him. He is unable to resist her. He finally succumbs to her wish and they make love (Martin 9).
Like Christian elements, there are many Pagan parts of the poem. However, the poem seems to be inclined to Christian philosophies. The Green Knight demonstrates consideration or mercy towards others, which is in itself Biblical. Specifically, he champions Christ’s philosophies of self preservation when is ready to empower his opponents (Martin 11).
As a way of reconciling Pagan and Christian values, Gawain is issued with a magical girdle which the woman giving her claims protects people. This is a pagan belief embraced by a strongly Christian Gawain (Martin 9).
The chivalric ideals of loyalty, courage and mercifulness are championed by medieval romance. Ideally, men are supposed to remain sexually pure by being courageous enough to resist sexual advances made to them by other people’s wives. However, the poem indicates that it is not possible for man to assume an immortal way of handling such temptations. Gawain for instance defies his spiritual principles when the lady making advances on her issues him with a life saving girdle. He accepts it, suggesting that it is not easy for man to remain courageous and loyal as the medieval romance wants people believe (Martin 9).
Gardner. Grendel. U.S: Spark Publishers, 2007 < http://www.proquest.com>.
Martin. CIPHER CHIVALRY: VIOLENCE AS COURTLY PLAYED IN THE WORLD OF
SIR GAWAI AND THE GREEN KNIGHT. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania UP <http://www.ebscohost.com >.
Webster. Tit for Tat: A fresh Look at Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Manchester: Manchester
UP < http://www.ebscohost.com>.