A Comparison between Beowulf and Redcrosse Knight
A Comparison between Beowulf and Redcrosse Knight Both
Beowulf and Redcrosse Knight exemplify the perfect hero in two separate
periods, The Middle Age & The Early Modern Period. The story of Beowulf
shows the effect of the spread of Christianity in the early Danish
paganistic society that values heroic deeds and bravery above all else.
Beowulf’s heroism is explored in three separate conflicts, those with
Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the sea monster. Redcrosse Knight, the
protagonist of “The Faerie Queen,” stands for the virtue of Holiness—though
he is the individual Christian fighting against evil. What is a hero?
According to The American Heritage®
Dictionary of the English Language, a hero is a person noted for feats of
courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed
his or her life. “The Faerie Queen,” written during the early modern period,
narrates a massive change in Christian religious thoughts and practices.
Redcrosse Knight offers his services to Gloriana, Queen of Fairyland.
Una (representing truth) reveals that the dragon of hell has captured her
parents and that she needs assistance in getting them free. Redcrosse takes
on the challenge of getting her parents released (Canto 1). This demonstrate
a hero, he will go through great trials and fight fierce monsters and this
in itself is the character of a heroic knight. Not only does his armor
protect his body and those with him, but also being a Christian (Protestantism)
he has the protection of
Christ. For the Christian to be holy, he must have true faith. Much of
Beowulf is dedicated to verbalizing and demonstrating the heroic code, which
values strength, courage, and loyalty in soldiers, hospitality, generosity,
political skill, and good reputation in all people. The heroic code is
crucial to warrior societies as a way of understanding their relationships
to the world and the danger waiting outside their borders.
Redcrosse Knight, conversely, accustom to the chivalric code, must
defeat villains who impersonate the falsehood of the Roman Church.
Redcrosse must defend the natural realm of villains plus the spiritual
realm of evilness. The rich qualities of loyalty, humility, sacrifice
for the good of others, and sympathy for those less fortunate are seen
woven into the text as well as the negative consequences from greed and
pride. He encounters several evildoers, the dragon from hell,
Archimago (evil sorcerer), Sansfoy (without faith), Sansloy (without the
law of god), Duessa/Fidessa (falsehood and the Roman Church) to name a
few. These evildoers fight Redcrosse Knight through deceit, lust, and
untruth. Therefore he must be armed with faith in Christ to overcome the
evils of the spiritual realm.
As we can see, equally Beowulf and Redcrosse Knight have a vast
amount of bravery. They both defeat enemies that attack or capture
innocent people. They both constantly pray to Christ for assistance in
fighting off evil they encounter as well as having sympathy for those in
distress. These qualities idealized by thanes and knighthood, such as
bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women are visible in both
Beowulf and Redcrosse Knight. One variation is that women are not as
prominent in the Old English period and women are in the Middle Age
period. We see this in both poems. In Beowulf we only hear about
Wealhtheow, Hrothgar’s queen, and Grendel mother. However in “The Faerie
Queene,” we see many women characters, Gloriana,
Una, Duessa/Fidessa, Lucifera (Hell), Caelia (Heavenly), Fidelia (Faith),
Sperenza (Hope), and Charissa (Charity). In some way or another
Redcrosse has a connection to these women, good and bad. Additionally
both heroes have an encounter with a character from hell. Beowulf dives
into the lake (personification of hell) where
Grendel’s mother is waiting to attack. He cannot cut her with his
sword, so he tosses it away and finds a larger sword killing
Grendel’s mother by cutting her head off. He sees Grendel dead body
nearby and cuts off his head as a trophy and return to Denmark (pg.
61, 1356-84). This expresses an important virtue, loyalty. Redcrosse
Knight encounters Lucifera (Queen of Hell) and the parade of vices.
He has been weakened by his visit to the House of Pride. Although he
had the instinctive good sense to flee from that castle, his
conscience is still at work. This failure leads him near death in
the dungeon of Orgoglio, a giant that represents godless pride.
Arthur (represents magnificence) comes along and helps Redcrosse
rise up from his lowest state (Canto 7).
Redcrosse also defeats the dragon. Just as Christ descended to
hell to defeat Satan, Redcrosse had to enter the hellish mouth of
the dragon to finally kill it. He is not victorious alone he is
saved twice by very timely help. The Well of Life and The Tree of
Life, both represents the grace that God gives to mankind, which
aids Christian in danger of falling prey to sin (Canto 10).
No matter how well equipped or prepared a Christian is, he is no
match for sin and death without the underserved grace of God. Thus
the message about the Christian life is one of humility; we can
never take the credit for God’s victory. Another similarity of both
these warriors are rewards for being heroes, however in very
different ways. After Beowulf kills Grendel he is consider the
greatest hero in
Danish history. Hrothgar says that Beowulf will never lack for
riches, the horses and men of the Geats were all richly adorned, and
a party was held to celebrate Beowulf’s victory (pg. 48-52,
710-915). Redcrosse Knight, on the other hand, will receive his
reward in heaven. If he continues to live sinless and fight against
evildoers he will receive eternal life. The battle will not end
until the end of the world, when
Christ will reveal which religion is false and which is true.
While the code maintains that honor is gained during life
through deeds, Christianity asserts that glory lies in the
afterlife. Christian doctrine also advocates a peaceful,
forgiving attitude toward one’s enemies (Canto 12). Just as they
both have similarities Redcrosse Knight has flaws as well.
Redcrosse runs into Despair, a gloomy old man that knows
Redcrosse’s sin and weaknesses and almost persuades him to take
his own life. Despair is not one of the seven deadly sins
however a Christian should not be caught in despair, as it is a
sin to take your own life. Again as a noble and courageous
knight, Redcrosse obtain assistance from
Caelia and her daughters in the House of Holiness to regain
his strength. In both poems, Beowulf and Redcrosse Knight
developed from heroic warriors into wise leaders. Beowulf rises
from an unfretted warrior to a reliable king and Redcrosse
Knight eventually becomes St. George, the patron saint of
England. Both possessed the necessary characteristics to become
very successful nobles.
Though these two outlooks are somewhat oppositional, each
character acts as society dictates. Beowulf acted as a
hero-warrior and Redcrosse as a chivalric-warrior. Though their
Christian values are somewhat similar. The images of warrior
code presented in both poems are significant roles that are
important to Christian life—Faith and Holiness. As stated in the
Bible “Faith without works is dead.””
<< Ïðåäûäóùàÿ ðåôåðàò
Ñëåäóþùèé ðåôåðàò >>