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A Comparison between Beowulf & Redcrosse Knight

A Comparison between Beowulf & Redcrosse Knight
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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.

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