Gawain, Beowulf, and the Question of History

Friday, September 16th, 2005

Mark Anastasio begins work on an exam question in his response to this post. He writes:

The warning is that Camelot, like these other great Empires, will fall.

The opening of Beowulf lays out a historical map that takes a much less foreboding tone. It states the achievements of past rulers and gives the listener a sence of how great these men were, but for the sole purpose of setting example. The Thanes wanted to live up to the reputations of thier ancestors, never exceeding them or ever falling short. We get the idea that based on the history of the text , Beowulf will certainly succeed, its in his blood to do so.

In Gawain the history is given, but with the mention of Troy and Rome and societies that paved the way for Camelot we can’t help but feel a little doomed from the start. On the one hand all of these civilizations were quite wealthy, powerful and prosperous in thier day, yet on the other they all came crashing down.

The histories of both these texts are very strong tools of [sic] foreshadow, however the [sic] shadow over Sir Gawains head is much darker.

My response is: how does the story of Gawain bear out this notion of fall and cycle? Why is Gawain as the bearer of the pentangle important to this very notion of fall?

One response to “Gawain, Beowulf, and the Question of History”

  1. Kyle idione says: