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Heroes In Anglo-Saxon And Middle English Literature

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Heroes have been depicted in writing across the complete timeline of literature. Anglo-Saxon and the Middle English periods are two important sections of this timeline. The hero changed detrimentally between these periods. The hero changed based on the two major writing styles: the Epic and the Romance.

The Anglo-Saxon hero was characterized as humble, courageous, valiant, strong, noble and many more similar traits. Beowulf is the epitome of this. Beowulf is blatantly intelligent, and even when doubted beyond belief, always rises to the occasion. Not only are these traits of an Anglo-Saxon hero, they are also traits of a great leader regardless of the time period. Another important quality was to be a warrior. To be an amazing hero in this time period, it was essential to be an amazing warrior. The hero had to be strong even to the point of it being supernatural. Beowulf is no stranger to this. He fights sea monsters, demons and dragons and destroys them without question (There is no need to mention how the dragon got lucky.) Going along with this, the hero must be proud of himself and his accomplishments. This is shown when Beowulf brags about his killing of nine sea monsters during his swimming challenge. As aforementioned, the hero was seen as a leader. The warriors in his tribe aspired to be him. Beowulf was challenged by the tribe members when he arrived but after being protected by him, they quickly succumbed to his leadership.

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The romance hero shares qualities of the epic hero – courageous, noble, and loyal. However, there are evident traits that make the two different. This hero had to be in touch with his chivalry and courtly love side. While being a great hero is important to him, his emotions and love are also at the forefront of his story. Both have to prove themselves but the romance hero chases that approval. I compare the two to what would be considered the perfect guy, to the majority, in modern culture. A strong, athletic, handsome man who can carry himself in his battles but also unquestionably knows how to tone down his pride and turn on his romantic demeanor to win over women. Both are opposite sides of a coin with the romance hero being the latter. For example, Sir Gawain is not shy about showing his emotions but when faced with the challenge of the Green Knight, he is capable of overcoming these obstacles.

Overall, these heroes are very similar but as society progressed so did they. Society became more comfortable with men being assertive with their emotions but never lost the expectation of them to be strong warriors or knights.

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Heroes In Anglo-Saxon And Middle English Literature. (2021, September 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from
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