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Essay on Beowulf, Shylock and Sir Gawain

What makes a story, poem or play interesting and appealing to the reader are the characters involved. Characters form the basis of a successful writing in the sense that they help in discovery of major themes and motifs. It is worth noting that what make heroic or villain characters are traits they depict. In this regard, this brief overview will highlight three main characters from The Merchant of Venice, Beowulf and Sir Gawain and Green Knight and their relationship to the theme of self-interest verses love. The heroic character of Beowulf and that of Sir Gawain will be assessed as well as the villain character of Shylock who although is not the protagonist of the play, is more active than Antonio. Their own interests, personal goals and love for objects and people prompt the heroic actions of the three characters. Moreover, their beliefs and humanistic values compel their actions.

Beowulf, an epic poem by Chaucer depicts Beowulf as the central character against three contenders, Grendel mother, Grendel and the dragon (Mitchell, Robison, 14). His brave personality and merciless character helps him in killing all his enemies. However, Beowulf heroic actions are driven by his personal goals and his love for his people. He is determined to prove his ability and courage to his people through eliminating their enemies. Grendel, his mother and the dragon have constantly attacked the Hrooger Kingdom terrorizing people. This prompts Beowulf to act in defense of his Kingdom. The three opponents met their death in brutal way because of their constant assail to the Hrooger kingdom. Beowulf is a physically powerful and an audacious individual who has a compelling character that is determined to achieving personal goals and showing love to those who entrust him. On the other hand, in Sir Gawain and Green Knight, Lady Bertilak habitually makes advances to Gawain. Sir Gawain does not give in to her advances so easily thereby depicting his strong personality and respectable character. He is loyal to his host. He is courteous and careful not to break his loyalty to his host. Bertilak hosts Gawain and it is logical that he want to maintain a good relationship, which will support his stay.

On the other hand, Shylock is the most prominent character in the story “The Merchant of Venice” by Shakespeare. Just like Beowulf and Sir Gawain, Shylock a tragic character whose decency and intelligence is fractured through the persecution that he experiences, is the bad character in the play. He menacingly jeopardizes the pleasure of the Venice businesspeople. He does this out of self-interest. Shylock values business relationships than human relationships. This is because he is only concerned about monetary gains from his business. In fact, other merchants with an example of Antonio lend money free of charge. Moreover, Antonio put his life in jeopardy for his loved ones while Shylock shows so much pain after losing his money. He does not care about others but his only interest is in money. In fact, he does not care about his own daughter.

Notably, Shylock is more hurt after realizing that his daughter had sold his dead wife’s ring. Actually, Shylock is concerned about the monetary value of the ring and not his love towards his wife. This gives the notion that his greed exceeds his love. Just like Beowulf, Shylock is unforgiving and he plans to revenge by killing his persecutor (Shakespeare, Hutchinson, 80). He feels threatened by Antonio and other merchants and he out of anger schemed to harm Antonio. He does not value human life but money. He is a cruel character who does not depict any Christian values like forgiveness, either. He is resentful and greedy although his anger is much powerful than his greed. This aspect is highlighted through his insistence of pound of flesh. However, Shylock’s heroic personality helps the reader in ascertaining the rationale behind the story. The story highlights the rules and laws of Venice. His character shows how these rules are manipulated for selfish and personal goals (Shakespeare, Hutchinson, 60). Beowulf who is ruthless and unforgiving shares these traits though out of love, he revenges attack of his Kingdom by Grendel and the Dragon through killing them ruthlessly (Mitchell, Robison, 46). Just like Shylock, he lacks Christian principles of forgiveness and judgment and maintains acts in order to realize his personal goals. However, while Shylock wants to revenge out of self-interests, Beowulf carries out his revenge out of love of his people and the kingdom. Beowulf depicts qualities of military dexterity, honor, courage and loyalty and through these traits, he proves his love for his kingdom

Sir Gawain also exhibit loyalty. He loves and respects his host and he does not want to put his relationship with those he loves at risk. He embraces Christian and humanistic values. He respects and maintains good human relationships. He is not self-centered since he did not revenge the deceit and betray of his host. Gawain has a sense of self-control, a strength that he uses to maintain and respect his relationship with his host (Weston, 22). In this regard, the traits of Beowulf, Shylock and Gawain highlight virtues of prowess, courage and honor, which are achieved through feelings of love and self-interest. While Beowulf is fighting out of love of his people and kingdom, he does not consider reconciliation and forgiveness. This is because his goal is demonstrate his prowess and ability to his people.

While the three characters are heroes, their lives ends tragically because of personal goals. For instance, Beowulf demonstrates a pagan spirit in a Christian establishment because of love of his people. On the other hand, the understanding, honest and forgiving character of Sir Gawain depicts a Christian character, though not reuniting but rather understanding and unforgiving (Weston, 41). Sir Gawain is more concerned about maintaining good human relationships. Both Beowulf and Shylock fails the logic of absolute supremacy of subjective providence. Their self-interest, love for people, fame and money makes them heroes in their different capacities.

However, it is imperative to note that Beowulf’s cruel and merciless character leads to the salvation of his people and Kingdom, while Shylock is selfish has no sense of love to people, even his blood relations. This makes him a villain whose intention is not to benefit those around him but himself. This is contrary to Beowulf traits, which makes him a hero because of his courage, strength and ability to fight for his people out of love (Mitchell, Robison, 41). Stylistically, thematically and metrically Beowulf, Shylock heroic actions are intriguing. Their ethical values show loyalty and love to people and vengeance to their enemies. Beowulf sacrifices his life in order to save his people. His though tragic depicts the end of a brilliant hero. This aspect is also demonstrated by Sir Gawain after leaving his host place and confesses his misdeed. He truly shows the culmination of a good hero. His personality and that of Sir Gawain highlights the theme of love and loyalty. Particularly, after killing the enemies of Hrooger kingdom, Beowulf’s people are happy and recognize him as their hero. They do not question lack of humility and inhumane character but rather appreciates his courage and military prowess in fighting the enemies. In fact, Beowulf is given an honorable burial due to his courage and ability to win over the enemies because of love and loyalty to his kingdom (Mitchell, Robison, 42). He remains a celebrated epic hero unlike Shylock whose selfishness and greed offers him no honor. Sir Gawain unlike Beowulf has a humble character. He lacks physical vigor but has a sense of love and understanding. He fights from within his heart and not through physical power. He is hero, a champion just like Beowulf but a conqueror who depicts positive humanistic and Christian values without prejudice.

The three characters are determined in their own ways. Beowulf is determined to save his kingdom from its enemies and show his ability to his people. Sir Gawain is determined not to break his loyalty to his host and to maintain a good relationship with other people. Shylock ambition is to destroy his enemies. He wants to compensate his daughter’s death through a pound of flesh from Antonio (Shakespeare, Hutchinson, 83). It is worth noting that the pound of flesh is used symbolically to represent the rigidity of the world of Shylock.

Conclusion
Beowulf tragically dies from injuries after winning over the dragon. This makes him a tragic hero. On the other hand, Sir Gawain heroic deeds are traced through his brevity and honesty to accept and confess his misdeeds. Shylock loses all his wealth and a daughter, Jessica. Though a villain, he is a hero who has fought over his enemies. Beowulf uses his courage, prowess and brevity to defend others. He is also interested in his loyalty to his kingdom. However, his brevity, confidence and courage lead to his death. Sir Gawain is brave, honest, humble and his courage has makes him confess his misdeed upon his return home. From this perspective, it is therefore evident the interests, personal goals and love for objects and people prompt the heroic actions of the three characters. Moreover, their beliefs and humanistic values compel their actions.

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