Comparing Sir Gawain And The Green Knight And Beowulf

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“Faith, valor, loyalty, truth...” one can expect these virtues that comprise the Chivalric Code from an orthodox knight in the Middle Ages. The Germanic Warrior Code, on the other hand, governs the warring tribes of Norsemen. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Beowulf as translated by Simon Armitage and Seamus Heaney, the core values of the two codes are respectively personified as the two protagonists.
Despite the numerous similarities between these two disciplines, they differ over the existence of one key concept – humility.

While boasting plays a central role in a Scandinavian warrior’s career, the Knights of the Round Table practice humbleness instead. Both Beowulf and Sir Gawain are preceded by their reputations. For instance,
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Beowulf, in reply, proclaims that neither Unferth nor Breca “were ever much celebrated for swordsmanship or for facing danger on the field of battle”, and that Unferth “will suffer damnation in the depths of hell”(Heaney, 589), all the while omitting to address Breca’s victory. His agitated reply shows an indisputable pride: no one is allowed the liberty of smearing his honor. Sir Gawain, in contrast, retains his composure when the Green Knight blasphemously calls him and his fellow knights “lightweight adolescents wouldn’t last a minute”(Armitage, 39) against him. Furthermore, when the Green Knight misses his first strike in the final confrontation, Sir Gawain admits to flinching and plainly accepts the accusations of “terror struck” and “feeble and frail”(Armitage, 173). Evidently he demonstrates a relinquishment of pride.

Both heroes face defeats near the end of the stories: Beowulf is physically poisoned by the dragon’s lethal venom and cannot leave the barrow alive; Sir Gawain is morally dismantled when the Green Knight reveals his true identity and exposes Sir Gawain’s fear for death. Sir Gawain decides to keep the girdle, the very object that symbolizes his sin, so that it serves as a reminder that “the frailty of his flesh is [his] biggest fault, the touch of filth taints his tender frame”(Armitage, 183). If pride ever assumes dominance over Sir Gawain again, this girdle would “lessen [his] ardor” and restore his modesty(Armitage, 183). In contrast,
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