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A Comparison between Beowulf &
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 can......