The Tragedies of Two Heroes

In Beowulf and Beroul's The Romance of Tristan, the heroes Beowulf and Tristan are magnificent fighters. Their numerous victories against seemingly insurmountable odds and powerful enemies are testaments to their battle-talents. Yet the two heroes employ violence in their exploits for different reasons and for different goals. While Beowulf engages in battle for almost purely an attraction to fighting and the recognition of violent success, Tristan does so out of passion and devotion to love.

The Geat noble Beowulf is described and praised as a superb warrior as soon as he is introduced to those in need of his help. When Hrothgar first encounters Beowulf in his battered court, he recalls the fame of Edgetheow's son: "The seafarers used to say, I remember...that this fighting man in his hand's grasp had the strength of thirty other men" (63). And Beowulf is quick to verify the rumor of the great power in his hands, relating the time "I had bound five Giants---their blood was upon me---" and when he "crushed on the wave sea-serpents by night in narrow struggle, broken the beasts" (64). Boastful, but seemingly able to substantiate his words with action, he asks as a matter of fact,...

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