Beowulf vs. The Knight from Canterbury Tales
A hero or heroine can be found in many different forms. There are certain characteristics that make up a hero or a heroine. Some of those characteristics are someone who is endowed with great courage, loyalty, obedience, cleverness, strength, and someone who is noted for special achievement.
The hero Beowulf, from the story Beowulf, is a seemingly invincible person with all the extraordinary traits required of a hero. He is able to use his super-human physical strength and courage to put his people before himself. He encounters dreadful monsters and the most vicious of beasts but he never fears the threat of death. His leadership skills are excellent and he is even able to brag about all his achievements. Beowulf is the ultimate epic hero who risks his life countless times for immortal glory and for the good of others.
Not to be outspoken is another great hero. In Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, written in approximately 1385, is a collection of twenty-four stories allegedly told by various people who are going on a religious pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral. In the General Prologue, Chaucer introduces all of the characters who are involved in this journey and who will tell the tales. Among the many characters is the Knight. The knight, “possessed fine horses, but he was not gaily dressed” (literature book, pg.107, line 75). Indeed, the knight is dressed in a common shirt, which is stained “where his armor had left mark” (literature book, pg. 107, line 78). Clearly, the knight possesses an outstanding character. Chaucer gives to the knight one of the more flattering descriptions in the General Prologue. The knight can do no wrong: he is an outstanding warrior. The Knight remains modest and polite. The knight is a picture perfect example of the chivalric code: he is devoted and courteous off the battlefield and is bold and fearless on it.
Beowulf is a hero in the eyes of his fellow men through his amazing physical strength. He fought in numerous battles and returned victorious from all but his last. Beowulf is also strong enough to kill the monster Grendel, who has been terrorizing the Danes for twelve years, with his bare hands by ripping off Grendel’s arm. When Beowulf is fighting Grendel’s mother, who is seeking revenge on her son’s death, he is able to slay her by slashing the monster’s neck with a giant’s sword that can only be lifted by a person as strong as Beowulf. When he chops off her head, he carries it from the ocean with ease, but it takes four men to lift and carry it back to Herot mead-hall. This strength is a key trait of Beowulf’s heroism.
Then again, the Knight was one who was a favorite of Chaucer’s because he was always described in the most positive of ways. He fought for what was right and did not stop until everything was good. He would be described as one of Chaucer’s most liked characters, bold and fearless.
Nonetheless, another heroic trait of Beowulf is his ability to put his peoples welfare before his own. Beowulf risks his own life for the Danes, asking help from no one. He realizes the dangers but fears nothing for his own life. After Beowulf had served his people as king for fifty years, he goes to battle one last time to fight a horrible dragon that is frightening all of his people. Beowulf is old and tired but he defeats the dragon in order to protect his people. Even in death he wished to secure safety for his people. Beowulf was not afraid to die. Even with the enormous amount of confidence Beowulf possesses, he understands that fate will work its magic no matter what and he could be killed at any point in his life. He faces that reality by showing no fear and preparing for a positive or a fatal outcome.
Beowulf and the Knight are prime example of hero’s. Their bravery and strength surpass all mortal men. The loyalty and the ability to think of themselves last, make them admired by all. They set noble examples for all human beings relaying the necessity of brotherhood and friendship. Beowulf and the Knight are most definitely heroes of epic proportions. These two characters, the Knight and Beowulf, are the hero of each story and clearly show their traits of being a hero throughout each. Each character varies in the traits that make each a hero. Traits and qualities are what make a hero what he or she is. A hero is honored by his or her followers. In the cases of Beowulf and the Knight, they were both honored and respected by their peoples.
It would be nice to think that people such as the Knight and Beowulf could exist in the twentieth century. The fact of the matter is that it is unlikely that people such as the Knight or Beowulf existed even in the fourteenth century. As he does with all of his characters, Chaucer is producing a stereotype in creating the Knight. Chaucer, in describing the Knight, is describing a chivalric ideal. The history of the middle ages demonstrates that this ideal rarely was manifested in actual conduct. Nevertheless, in his description of the knight, Chaucer shows the reader the possibility of the chivalric way of life. The characters of the Knight and Beowulf are classic examples of heroes.