Comparing Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Essay

Published: 2021-06-29 02:08:40
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Song of Roland comparison compare contrast essays
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Song of Roland
In mythological Europe, knightly heroes abounded whereever one
could choose to roam. There are hundreds of tales of knights who embodied
the concept of chivalry, slew huge dragons, slew legions of foes in single
combat, and still made it home in time for dinner. Of all these tales,
ballads and poems, a few have risen to the fore front of the genre as an
example for the rest of the stories to follow. I will be comparing the
positive and negative personality traits of two heroes from the famous
poems “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” and “The Song of Roland.”
On the lighter side, both Gawain and Roland had more positive
attributes than they did negative.
Both men were honorable, almost to a
fault. For example in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” Gawain agreed to
be on time for his own execution:
“Nor I know you not, knight, your name nor your court.
But tell me truly thereof, and teach me your name, and I
shall fare forth to find you, so far as I may, and this I say
in good certain, and swear upon oath.”
(G&GK, pt.1, ln. 400-403)
Gawain’s agreement might have been honorable, but it doesn’t strike
me as particularly bright.
Roland had the same type of problem. His honor
also got him to into trouble. One perfect example of this was when Roland
made his Uncle Ganelon so angry by antagonizing him that Ganelon used
Roland’s concept of honor to make Roland take the rear guard and be
slaughtered. Roland antagonized Ganelon by saying: “Quoth Roland: ‘
Ganelon my step she is the man” (SOR, ln.229) Roland also felt honor bound
not to call for reinforcements against the pagan horde until almost every
single one of the knights were dead. “Companion Roland, your Olifant now
sound! King Charles will hear and turn his armies round; hell succour us
with all his kingly power.
‘ Roland replies: ‘may never god allow that I
should cast dishonour on my house or fair France!” (SOR, ln.1063-1068) To
go along with that incredible sense of honor, Gawain was the best man in
King Arthur’s court with weapons. Gawain might have been fairly humble
about it, but the poet emphasizes Gawain’s prowess with weapons by self
deprecation. “While so bold men about upon benches sit, that no host under
heaven is hardier of will, Nor better brothers-in-arms where battle is
joined; I am the weakest, well I know” (G;GK, ln. 351-354) Roland was
even more so, fighting exquisitely with sword, lance, and ax to defeat
legions of pagans in “The Song of Roland.” “Leopard nor lion ne’er grew so
fierce as he (Roland)” (SOR, ln.
1115) Both Roland and Gawain are
portrayed as totally above board and honest. Gawain promises to show up
for his execution, and indeed he does. Roland promises to take up the rear
guard with a minimum of men. Both of these men embodied the attributes
of chivalry.
On the other hand, some of those same attributes helped to get
Gawain and Roland into trouble. For example, even though both Gawain and
Roland were honorable, Gawain nearly lost his head due to his honor when he
made his deal with the Green Knight to trade blows in ‘Sir Gawain and the
Green Knight’.
Gawain’s lack of fear also caused him to take on opponents
much more dangerous than he could handle by himself. When the Green Knight
suddenly popped into existence in the middle of King Arthur’s hall on a
green horse, it shouldn’t have taken a rocket scientist to figure out that
a non-magical fighter isn’t going to fare too well against this particular
opponent. Roland had the same problem. Taking on incredibly long odds was
apparently a knightly characteristic that wasn’t on the ‘most desirable
chivalric habits’ list. Neither of the two appeared to be much of a people
person, antagonizing and fighting with people who were better off being
friends. Gawain was involved .

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