Before comparing and evaluating Beowulf, Nibelungen, King Arthur, Sir Gawain and Green Nightand the Song of Roland, we need to focus on what chivalric romance and knighthood are. It is easily described that both of them are associated with each other, and so we can say that there is no way chivalric romance is formed without knighthood and bravery. Chivalric romance is a literature genre of prose or verse and also it is described as adventures of legendary knights who have some heroic qualities such as courage, loyalty, honor and humility which are civilized behaviors and also it includes courtly love. As for Knighthood, we can say that it is a term which requires these moral behaviors and it consists of chivalric codes.
Beowulf shows knighthood which is one of elements of the chivalric romance by fighting with Grendel for helping Hrotgar. This is a great example of chivalry and knighthood. In Beowulf, the monsters can be described as figures which have a symbolic meaning. For example, Grendel may seem to be Cain, a biblical figure, who killed his own brother so Grendel may be represented the evil disturbing and killing others. Fighting with a dragon Beowulf sacrificed himself for people. The dragon which is a common Christian figure of sinmay represent a malignancy that proves Beowulf’s courage and goodness. Another motif in Beowulf is the Mead-Hall where is a cultural place providing food and drink, light and warmth, and revelry and this is also place Beowulf spends night. This cultural place or institution represents a safe zone for warriors returning from battle and also it may be described as place of community where traditions were preserved and it affects the oral tradition because,in that place, stories were told and reputations were spread.
Like in Beowulf, there are also some motifs and symbols in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Before talking about these, I would like to mention chivalric features of Sir Gawain and the Green Night. Firstly, Sir Gawain accepts the challenge of Green Night to prove his courage just like Beowulf. Both of them keep their promises by questing and fighting with monsters and both show a valor. All of these are not for gold, money, profit or any wishes. They fight for glory and fame. As a difference, their beliefs and social status could be compared but Sir Gawain also shows a great knighthood and codes of chivalry. One of the motifs is shield of Sir Gawain. Its shape is pentangle. This shield may be considered representing the five wounds of Christ, and it may symbolizes the five codes of chivalry or virtues of knighthood which includes generosity, courtesy, purity, chivalry and piety. Actually, we can say that the pentangle is a symbol of Gawain’s personality. In the story, the lady offers Sir Gawain a ring but Gawain refuses it because he does not show heroism for any profits or wishes as mentioned above. However, Sir Gawain accepts and wears the green girdle which the lady gives because he thinks that it would be jewel for the peril that awaited him at the temple, and he thinks that he can use the girdle for an advantage. The girdle represents Gawain’s human weakness and human nature because he wants to save his own life. Morever, this girdle may be considered as a symbol of shame, and Sir Gawain will wear this girdle forever because of his failure. Colour of the green night represents the nature, and it symbolizes fertility and rebirth and also, green colour in medievel literature can be associated with lust love or forbidden love.
In Nibelungen, Siegfried promises the lady who his brother gets injured that he takes a revenge for this lady and he shows bravery and keeps his promise by killing the dragon which damages the people and thus the courtly love is emerged. This refers to an example of chivalric romance because Siegfried also has some chivalric qualities or codes. These are to be polite and attentive, loyalty to the country, king and his friends. He never betrays a confidence or comrade so that he always maintains his principles and dies with honor. In addition to these, Siegfried successfully exhibits the codes of chivalry.
Surely, Sir Gawain served only one lord, King Arthur. Sir Gawain also is one of the Knights of the Round Table whichsymbolizedchivalry, knighthood, and the knight’s morals. Actually, codes of chivalry were first described in the Song of Roland but we can say that while these were first mentioned in the Song of Roland, they came into existence and shaped with King Arthur’s Round table.