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Beowulf Badge

Beowulf, the hero of an epic Anglo-Saxon poem by the same name, is a Medieval superhero. Like Captain America or Superman today, he is the exemplar of how and Anglo-Saxon was supposed to act in the period before 1000 C.E. The most prevalent trait that Beowulf has is his colossal physical strength and battle ability. This is clearly shown when he rips off the monstrous Grendel's arm bare handed, and nearly kills a dragon with minimal help. Beowulf also exhibits a great deal of duty to his family and lord. His father, Ecgtheow, had a blood debt paid by the lord of the Danes, Hrothgar. Consequently, Beowulf traveled to the land of the Danes in their time of need in order to kill Grendel, who was killing their people. Much like our heroes today, Beowulf is not perfect. His biggest failing is when he becomes the king of the Geats following the death of his lord. Beowulf's kingdom was attacked by a dragon, and in order to rid the Geats of this scourge, he led a few men to the beast's lair and attempted to kill it. A good king would not place his already weakened people into a position to lose the only leader that they had left. Bewolf even went as far as battling the dragon alone, which for Beowulf in his old age was a death sentence. This act was selfish, as he wanted to find glory in battle, one last time without worrying over the fate of his people.

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This image of Beowulf depicts the warrior aspect of his character. Notice the rippling muscles, blood-splatter on his armor and the fact that he is gripping the severed head of Grendel while screaming his victory. In this image, Beowulf is gripping a bared sword while standing in a pool of bloody water. This version of Beowulf is visceral and savage, a bit more extreme than he is portrayed in the text. Beowulf is a Christian inspired text, and the animal-like nature of this Beowulf does not seem to be quite the Christian warrior that he is made out to be.

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This depiction of Beowulf still portrays him as a young warrior, but is very different than the previous version. In this image, he is looking forward, determined but calm. He almost seems noble, with his brow furrowed with resolve. This Beowulf fits his persona in the text much better, giving him the feel of capability and honor that was missing in the other image. Notably, his eyes are clear, rather than the partially obscured one of his counterpart, which implies an honest and upfront personality, rather than that of a brute.

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Finally, we come to a version of Beowulf on his deathbed. No longer the powerful young warrior, Beowulf is an old man dying from his wounds incurred by fighting a dragon. This version of Beowulf shows him as ultimately defeated. He may have defeated his foe, but it cost him his life. his head is bowed, confiding his final wishes to Wiglaf, his ward. This is accurate to his final moments in the story, as he is defeated with his sword broken, which symbolizes his own "breaking" as a warrior and a leader.

Snapguide : How to be Beowulf

The Green Knight

The Green Knight from the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the most interesting characters to emerge from medieval literature. This is because of his position as a pagan character placed into a Christian story. The Green Knight is a form of nature spirit; many compare him to the "Green Man" found in many native English legends that represents renewal and growth. The unknown author of Sir Gawain uses the character as a link or a bridge between the old beliefs and the culture that existed at the time this story was written. By the point of time that Sir Gawain takes place, the druidism that the Green Knight represents is alien to the other characters and this is expressed both by the Green Knight's supernatural powers and otherworldly appearance. As his name suggests, the Green Knight has green skin and is a monstrously huge man, both in musculature and height. As far as we can tell he is also immortal, as he survives decapitation, picks up his head, delivers a short speech to King Arthur's court, and rides away as if nothing happened. Christians commonly held the belief that the druids practiced magic of a sort, and the Green Knights powers reflect this misconception.

The Green Knight plays an important role in the narrative of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He is the antagonist with who Gawain plays a game with. The result of this contest is that Gawain must accept a blow to the neck from the Green Knight, which will be fatal. The Green Knight exists in this story to be a foil to the cowardly knights of King Arthur's court; Gawain as the only knight brave enough to accept his challenge. At the end of the story, we learn that the Green Knight is actually the kindly lord Bertilak, and acted on behalf of Morgana LeFay, a sorceress who carries a vendetta against Arthur's court in most versions of Arthurian legend. While this moves the Green Knight away from the role of main antagonist, we can still tell that Bertilak is a noble man who values honor and knighthood, and is disillusioned by Arthur's knights' cowardice. This attitude is the reason that he assisted Morgana to put Gawain to the test as a knight.

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When the Green Knight is first introduced, one of the first things noticed is a gigantic ax that he carries with him. The ax becomes the object of his wager with Gawain, and gives Gawain his scar at the end of the story. The ax, a weapon synonymous with executions, symbolizes punishment, in this case, the punishment of Gawain for his arrogance and later cowardice. The reason the Green Knight goes to Arthur's court is to both test and mock his knights, as they do not conduct themselves as knights should, according to the code of chivalry.

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With all of the nature imagery used for the Green Knight, I believe that he is best symbolized by a hawthorn tree. The tree represented duality and contradiction to the Celts, for both its beautiful flowers and berries as well as its dangerous thorns. The union of two contradicting forces is present in the Green Knight's depiction of natural forces embodied in a knight, one who is supposed to be holy and above material things. Even the objects that the Green Knight brings to the court, a holly branch of peace and a monstrous ax, contradict one another.

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The last symbol of the Green Knight is a skull, because of its strong representation of death. For Gawain, honoring his agreement with the Green Knight would mean willingly going to his death. People always run from death, it is human nature. The struggle between Gawain's survival instinct and his honor-clad death sentence is the central struggle of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and serves to make the story relatable, even to a modern audience.

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"Most attractive was this man attired in green,/ With the hair of his head matching his horse./ Fine outspreading locks cover his shoulders/A great beard hangs down over his chest like a bush" (Fitt 1, 179-82)

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"The bright blade slashed through the man's spine/ and cut through the white flesh, severing it in two" (Fitt 1, 424-5).

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"He takes his stance to strike/ Puckering mouth and brow/ No wonder if Gawain feels/ No hope of rescue now. (Fitt 4, 2305-8).

Canterbury Tales: Pilgrims

In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, he describes a series of pilgrims, people who are taking a religious journey to the shrine at Canterbury. This group ranges from laborers to clergy and to nobility, and Chaucer does an excellent job of describing each of them. From these descriptions, we can tell what traits/characteristics that Chaucer believes to be good. In general, it appears that Chaucer values truth, piety, humility, and living a simple lifestyle. Conversely, Chaucer condemned lying, gluttony, and to a lesser extent, adultery. Chaucer's tone in describing the pilgrims is mostly positive, but only because it is satirical. Most of the pilgrims are deficient in some way, but Chaucer only implies that they are sinful or wicked, never outright condemning any of them. Only a few pilgrims such as the knight and the parson are close to being "good" people, and the rest all have some irredeemable fault.

My personal pilgrimage would be to go to the Scottish Highlands. They are a largely untouched area of land that is literally saturated by historical sites and landmarks. I feel that going there would be an experience that would change my life. I am a history major who is interested in Medieval Europe, but unfortunately I have never had the opportunity to go overseas. To me, all of Europe is a goal, something that I strive towards in my adult life. Going there is the number one goal that I have, and once I finally get there, I feel that I will be beyond myself with joy and exultation.

Early Modern Historian Badge

Mary I of England or "Bloody Mary" was vital to the formation of early modern British literature. Typically portrayed as a villain, Mary was hated in England because she attempted to undo the Protestant Reformation created by her father, Henry VIII. Mary, an ardent Catholic, desperately wanted to return England to the "correct" way of doing things, a.k.a. Catholicism, but it was not received well by the public. As such, Mary's rule and the period immediately after were marked by immense religious and cultural tension. This period of heightened tension had a profound effect on the literature of the 16th century. One notable example is the dragon Error in Edmund Spencer's The Faerie Queen. Error is shown to vomit papers and pamphlets identified as Roman Catholic propaganda, thus equating Catholicism with the sin and primordial evil associated with dragon-kin in western literature. It has been said that Mary's veritable reign of terror stirred up a great deal of anti-Catholic sentiment in England, resulting in an era of Protestant vs Catholic literature under the reign of her sister Elizabeth.

Redcrosse Badge

Redcrosse Knight Code of Conduct
  1. 1. You must be a Protestant. No Catholics allowed.
  2. 2. Must not lose in battle, to anyone or anything.
  3. 3. Dragons are an abomination: slay them all.
  4. 4. Listen to your woman, they often know best.
  5. 5. Remain chaste; do not give in to carnal desires.
  6. 6. Do not consort with enchanters, they are nothing but trouble.
  7. 7. No one named Duessa is ever proper company for a knight.
  8. 8. Anyone who lives in a house made of gold foil is bad news.
  9. 9. All that glitters is not gold.
  10. 10. Seriously, pay attention to people’s names. They tell you who they are.

Dearest Una,
While we were together, I felt complete. You and I were meant for each other, a pair made in the heavens. However, I have finally be made aware of the truth. You have beguiled me, lied to me. I thought that you were a woman of virtue, but you have been deceiving me. You have taken advantage of me, used me as a protector and then sneaked away, off into the night in order to satisfy your own sins of the flesh. My heart cries under this betrayal. For this inexcusable wrong you have dealt me, I must leave you. Do not follow me Una, for it is my sincere hope that we never meet again.

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Poet Badge

The Writer’s Struggle
Hark ye writers, I shall tell you a tale
Of creation’s breath and fiery shame
Set down on paper and put to them flame.
Without passion’s touch, my idea grows pale;
My pen dries up, my mouth cries out for ale.
Yet as I lay wanting hope to me came.
Inspiration struck, I moved towards fame.
With the muses at hand, my hand grows hale.
An inferno erupts, covers the page
Demons cry ire and grasp at my pen
I will not be stopped; shove them back with rage.
Wrestling with furies, I fall in a fen
I try to escape, it feels like an age
But at last, it’s over just before ten.

The Sonnet of an Aching Heart
What say you, women, to the love of men?
We struggle for your joys, and your hearts when
We catch your eye, if but for a moment.
You think yourselves gentle, but show omens
Of darker things, cruelty, disdain, and spite
And our frail hearts tremble before your might.
In despair’s throes we are laid out to you
And bow our heads to the ground for a clue
To the mystery of your hearts’ black lock
And for some of you this will be a shock
Men desire your love, more than water,
More than life, but you give us no quarter,
Nor moment of respite. So heed my words
If you would find love, lest the meaning blur.

Thoughts of a Captive Scholar
Where angels fly, I also wish to soar
With wings of light, I’d fly amongst the stars
If I could have this, I’d ask for no more
Than to live life free from a cage of bars.
The night goes on, yet my dreams do not come
My only escape from this life of mine
Eludes my grasp, renders my dead heart numb.
A taste of freedom that would be sublime.
Under the weight of my soul, my hope dies
Only to continue suffering pain.
When will the trials end, so I can fly?
By the end of this night, what will remain?
With a final gasp, I hear my door creak
It’s the prison guard, for dinner, there’s sheep.