The term “Hero” has been in our civilization for centuries. On the surface, a hero is a person of honor, integrity, and the will to fight for what he or she believes in. Nearly every story that is told is centered around a character who in one way or another is a hero. They are a person whom the common people are supposed to strive to be; but does this icon truly exist?
While the author of Beowulf is still a mystery, the greatness of the character that he or she created will live on forever. Beowulf is the model of what a hero was supposed to be in the middle ages. He was fearless in the face of death, nearly undefeatable, and cunning. Even as a king, Beowulf was generous and helped his people however he could.
“It was never [Beowulf’s] fortune to be helped in combat by the cutting edge of weapons made in iron. When he wielded a sword, no matter how blooded and hard-edged the blade his hand was too strong, the stroke he dealt would ruin it (lines 2677-2687)”
Beowulf was truly the perfect hero. However, this is, obviously, a fictional story. But did these heroes actually exist? Were there people who were both courageous and generous, who always stood up for what was right? In the fiction of this time, the answer is usually yes. However, as for the non-fictional stories, this was not necessarily the case.
The Art of Courtly Love was written by a monk at the end of the 11th century. The task was put on him to write a guide book so-to-speak for how the wealthy and powerful should go about falling in love, marriage, and things related to it. Obviously, a monk had no personal experience in these matters, so his writings must have been from observed experiences. These writings show how the members of the court truly were in these times.
“If you should, by some chance, fall in love with a peasant woman, be sure to puff her up with lots of praise, and then, when you find a convenient place, do not hesitate to take what you seek and embrace her by force […] We do not say these things, however, because we want to persuade you to love such women.”
These writings clearly show just exactly how to hierarchy saw the lower class. It insinuates that the higher class men should not even think of the poorer class as human beings, but tools for them to fill their desires if they should so unfortunately lust after a woman of lower class. This is clearly not how a hero is normally displayed, but this story was written for the hierarchy by the hierarchy, whom the lower and middle class were supposed to look up to. This brings the question, who were the real heroes? What even was a hero during this time? Was it a real thing, or were heroes just a work of fiction?
Geoffery Chaucer was a king’s yeoman, esquire, and a messenger. This allowed him to meet a variety of...