Доклад: A Comparison between Beowulf & Redcrosse Knight
between Beowulf & 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.”
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