Codes of Chivalry in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

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About this sample


Words: 1491 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: May 14, 2021

Words: 1491|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: May 14, 2021

Characters in the poems, Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, all believed in most of the honorable codes of chivalry. Characters within the poem Beowulf valued bravery, strength, loyalty, and beliefs. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight characters honored similar codes. Beowulf represents all of those honorable codes that make up who he is while protecting Hrothgar and his people in the epic poem Beowulf. Throughout the poem, there are many examples of the main character, Beowulf, representing these codes. During the medieval period, chivalry was used in many works of literature. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the characters are influenced by chivalry codes as well. Some of these driving forces found in the codes of chivalry include courage, honesty, and accepting their true fate. These three chivalry codes play a significant part in who the characters will become in the poem. In the poem, the Green Knight and Sir Gawain use these codes to shape their actions and values. Although, these are two completely different works of literature they share common beliefs of representing their codes of chivalry, which shapes who they become as characters.

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In the epic poem, Beowulf is from the tribe Geats and is known as the great monster slayer. In order for Beowulf to prove his integrity and bravery to Hrothgar and his people who are Danes, he must slay Grendel who is terrorizing them and his mother. The author writes, “They had seen me boltered in the blood of enemies when I battled and bound five beasts, raided a troll-nest and in the night-sea slaughtered sea-brutes”. It also mentions, “However it occurred, my sword had killed nine sea-monsters”. These quotes demonstrate that Beowulf has plenty of courage and is worthy of defeating these monsters. Bravery is an important element that Beowulf believes throughout the poem. Heroism is clearly shown through the protagonist, Beowulf. In the Role of Heroism and Bravery in Beowulf, it mentions, “Beowulf represented the bravest character in the poem. He demonstrated his courage in three key moments when he defeats Grendel mother, Grendel, and when he beats the dragon. Beowulf quickly acknowledges the consequences on those who are not brave, and makes it his goal to prove his courage in order to ensure that he is remembered as a brave individual”. This quote explains that heroism plays a significant role in Beowulf when he fights these deadly monsters.

Beowulf often believes in fighting fairly against his enemies. He fights many of his challenges reasonably to have a better reward at the end. It mentions in the poem, “Thus Beowulf bore himself with valour; he was formidable in battle yet behaved with honour and took no advantage”. The author also states, “Warrior that he was, watched and controlled his God-sent strength and his outstanding /natural powers”. These quotes show that fighting these beasts with extra weapons would be seen as dishonorable even if you win. Fighting equally against enemies was believed to be a greater accomplishment to Beowulf. Even though Beowulf does not feel the need to fight these monsters with weapons because it would be seen as weak, he knows he must stay loyal to his king, Higlac. In Beowulf Commentary, it states, “Beowulf admits that his enemy, Grendel, does not use any weapons, and he wants beat Grendel equally. Beowulf also mentions that his king, Higlac, would be upset in him if he were to kill Grendel in any other way”. Beowulf valuing fairness and loyalty shows how great of a hero he truly is within the poem.

Beowulf is believed in having an extraordinary appearance from others. In the poem, Beowulf possesses certain characteristics that are believed to separate him from a normal human being. It states in the poem, “Nor have I seen a mightier man-at-arms on this earth than the one standing here”. The author also writes, “Returned with marvelous tales about him: a thane, they declared, with the strength of thirty in the grip of each hand”. These quotes explain that this belief of having a different look to themselves than others emphasize who the hero or main character is. Bravery is an important element for a hero to obtain when facing challenges. In the poem, Beowulf is often always ready to encounter a battle no matter the outcome. The author mentions, “He began to remove his iron breast-mail, took off the helmet and handed his attendant / the patterned sword, a smith's masterpiece. (671-673). The author also states, “Men at arms, remain here on the barrow, safe in your armor, to see which one of us / is better in the end at bearing wounds in a deadly fray”. These quotes explain that Beowulf believes his courage will always make him come out on top despite how difficult the challenge might be.

In the poem, Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain sees himself as weak and unworthy in comparison to the other knights. Rather than Gawain believing that he is capable of beating the Green Knight, he accepts the challenge to sacrifice himself for King Arthur. It states in the poem.” And this foolish business fits my station, not yours: let me play this green man's game. If I ask too boldly, may this court declare me at fault”. It also states, “While so many brave men sit about you in their places who, I think, are unrivalled in temper of mind, and without equal as warriors on the field of battle'. These quotes explain how Gawain respects the rules of chivalry by defending his king. This poem is all about the chivalrous values they believed in during this time. Gawain is frequently tested throughout the poem on his loyalty. It states in the poem, “Sir Gawain’s chivalry is tested because the Green Knight then will perceive Gawain as a dishonorable man if he bails out on the deal. Bravery was significant to a knight whereas Gawain keep his promise and demonstrate his valor as a knight otherwise he would be pointless” (The Chivalric Code in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight). This quote shows loyalty was an important aspect in the codes of chivalry because Gawain accepts the challenge even with a negative outcome.

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain sacrifices himself for his king even with the possibility of dying. After Gawain finally meets the Green Knight, he is prepared for the worst and stands his ground as the Green Knight swings his axe. The author writes, “And you, before it can happen your heart Is quaking. Who doubts I'm the better Man?' 'I flinched,' said Gawain, 'I won't again”. It also mentions, “Yet though I must lose my life, fear shall never make me change colour.” These quotes explain that even though Gawain might die he believed that it was the knightly thing to do. Much of the Action in the poem comes from the game that Lord Bertilak and Gawain play. During the game, Bertilak’s wife tries to subdue Gawain but he must keep his word and exchange his winnings with Bertilak while following the rules of chivalry. It mentions, “Truly,' replied Gawain, 'I am greatly honored, though I am not, in fact, such a man as you speak of, to deserve such respect as you have just described I am completely unworthy, I know very well'. After the Knight reveals his true character to Gawain, he acknowledges his honesty towards him. The author mentions, “I had the right, because of our other agreement, in my castle; you kept it faithfully, performed like an honest Man, gave me everything you got”. These quotes show that even though Lord Bertilak’s wife tried to get Gawain to break the codes of Chivalry, he still followed the rules and was honest with Bertilak about most things.

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Honesty plays a big role in Sir Gawain’s character within the poem. Even though Gawain does not know that the host is actually the Green knight, he keeps most of his promises. In the poem, it mentions, “Gawain is filled with chivalry and morality because although during the situation he was able to take advantage, he does not. Many opportunities are given to Gawain to take advantage of Lady Bercilak, but is not easily tempted. Lady Bercilak simply gives him kisses, and in accordance to his agreement, returns them to the Green Knight”. This quote demonstrates the significance that honesty had on the chivalry codes despite the temptations. Overall, Beowulf represents his codes of chivalry by executing some characteristics that define what chivalry is. Throughout heroes’ journeys, they encounter many enemies just like Beowulf. In the poem, he demonstrates honesty by showing that he will defeat Grendel, the dragon and Grendel mother without any advantage. Characters in Beowulf also valued that having an extraordinary appearance sets you apart from others. Beowulf exemplifies bravery when he offers to fight without armor and his men. These characteristics define who Beowulf is and what it means to honor his chivalry codes.

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Codes Of Chivalry In Beowulf And Sir Gawain And The Green Knight. (2021, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from
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