Morals of Beowulf, Le Morte D’arthur, Chaucer’s the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner’s Tale

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In the four epic tales of Beowulf written by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, Le Morte D'Arthur written by Thomas Malory, and The Wife of Bath and The Pardoner's Tale written by Geoffrey Chaucer, there are many morals presented. Each tale holds a different moral. In Beowulf, the tale depicts that good conquerors evil. In Le Morte D'Arthur, the tale portrays trust. In The Wife of Bath, the tale shows that women want to be in charge of their men. In The Pardoner's Tale, the tale represented how greed is the root of all evil.

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In the tale of Beowulf, there was a young hero in Geatland, who aids the king of the Danes, Hrothgar. Beowulf heard that there was a monster killing Hrothgar's men, so he travels to Herot to slay the monster. Hrothgar was too old to fight, so he could not attempt to slay the monster himself, so Beowulf helped him accomplish, what Hrothgar himself could not. Beowulf did not only want to help Hrothgar and his people, but to honor Hrothgar's aid to his father years before, and to gain glory for himself. He does so, by testing his skill and bravery again the monster, Grendel. Grendel wasn't any monster; he was a monstrous ogre. In the end, Beowulf accomplished his goal, by vanquishing Grendel and showing that good conquerors evil. He gained glory and was celebrated by the Danes for his victory against Grendel.

In the tale of Le Morte D'Arthur, there was trust between King Arthur and his best knight, Lancelot. He fought Mador, knowing he was a strong knight, but due to his loyalty to King Arthur, he did not care. Lancelot eventually betrayed that trust, by having an affair with King Arthur's wife, Guinevere. King Arthur fought many battles for Guinevere, and his men showed great loyalty by sticking by him and dying in the battles. Merlin was a powerful sorcerer, who was trusted by King Arthur. He was the main person who helped King Arthur throughout his life, by advising him of what is to come in the future. Merlin warns Arthur of the tragedies that are to come and therefore, helps Arthur avoid the grim things that will happen to him. Different characters in the stories showed their own way of being a trustworthy ally.

In the tale of The Wife of Bath, there is a young knight who rapes a young maiden one day and is therefore punished for it. He was to be executed, but was instead, sent on a one year journey to find the answer to what women want most in the world. If he could not, he would meet his end through beheading. As judgment day for the knight draws near, he goes home. On his way home he rides near a forest, where he sees a large group of women dancing and eagerly approached them for wisdom. As he approached the dancing ladies, they vanished out of sight. What appeared was an old woman, as seen here:

"With all his cares, near to a forest's side,

Where he saw come together for a dance,

Some four and twenty ladies there by chance;

Toward which dance he eagerly did turn,

In hopes some wisdom from them he might learn.

But truly, before he had arrived there,

The dancing ladies vanished-who knew where.

No creature saw he left there who bore life,

Save on the green, he saw sitting a wife-

A fouler creature none imagine might.

This old wife then arose to meet the knight." (The Wife of Bath's Tale, lines 996-1006)

This old woman gave him the answer he sought after, and therefore saved his life. In exchange for the answer to what women want most in the world, he had to marry her. After he has told the queen the answer she desired, his life was spared. Later the old lady saw despair in the knight's face and questioned the reasoning. He couldn't bear having an old and lowborn wife, so the old lady gave him two choices. If he wanted her to be ugly, but loyal and good or have her young and fair, but also flirtatious and unfaithful. He gave her the answer she desired, which was to choose of her own will, the option that would make her the happiest. Therefore, she becomes both beautiful and good. Women want to be in charge of their men no matter what the age, social status, or the appearance of the woman.

In The Pardoner's Tale, three rioters go on a journey to find a mysterious figure named Death, who killed one of their old friend. On this journey, they come across an old man, who seems depressed. He continued to say, that he wishes for Death to take him for a long time. After the group heard the name of Death, they demanded to know where they could find him. They were directed to go look under an oak tree by the old man, where they did not find Death, but instead, eight bushels of gold coins. Two of the three decided to kill the one who went into town to fetch bread and wine, so they can become wealthier. The one that was in town had the same idea but was ambushed and killed when he got back. After murdering their friend, they celebrated by drinking the wine he brought back and were both killed by the poisoned wine. In the end, their greed is what killed them all. The three rioters did find Death, but not the one they were expecting.

In conclusion, the reader can see the moral in each story, and what the author was trying to portray from the actions of the characters in their stories. Good conqueror over evil is the main theme for a lot of movies and shows. Trust is shown in different ways, but sometimes can be broken. In reality, some women want to be in charge of men because it gives them a sense of satisfaction or feeling of dominance. Greed is the root of all evil, which makes money the root of all evil. Everyone is greedy about something, whether it be money or something else they desire that money cannot buy.

Works Cited

  • Beowulf. Trans Seamus Heaney. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Gen. ed. Martin Puchner. 9th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 2014. 1235-1304. Print
  • Le Morte D'Arthur. Trans Sir Thomas Malory. Le Morte DArthur. Norton Critical ed. Stephen H. A. Shepherd. New York: Norton, 2004. 3-698. Print
  • The Wife of Bath. Trans Sheila Fisher. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Gen. ed. Martin Puchner. 9th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 2014. 1235-1304. Print
  • The Pardoner's Tale. Trans Sheila Fisher. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Gen. ed. Martin Puchner. 9th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 2014. 1235-1304. Print

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