Sir Gawain is a noble knight of the Round Table who faced the consequences of accepting a challenge from a “Green Knight”. In order to find a solution to his problem, Sir Gawain ventured into an adventure full of tests and temptations. On the other hand, Odysseus is a legendary Greek king, ruler of Ithaca, and Homer’s epic hero. Odysseus and his men experienced one of their greatest adventures on their way home to Ithaca. Their journey back home was troubled and filled with obstacles and temptations. Sir Gawain and Odysseus, two great men of their respective stories, fought against almost the same temptations.
More particularly, these male protagonists fought against the temptations and sexual prowess of women. Despite being great men of their caliber, they still became victims to the charm and alluring beauty of their antagonists. However, their varied personality, convictions and approaches or intensity of desires created the difference in the outcome for these two epic protagonists. The core theme in the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, translated by Marie Borroff, illustrates the tests which measured Sir Gawain’s compliance to the code of chivalry.
Sir Gawain had to face temptations or tests of moral virtue; archetypal temptation fable that can be greatly observed in this medieval literature. The hardest temptation which he had to deal with was the temptation of his mistress. During the hunt, the hunter looks and hunts the deer to serve as a staple of diet or a food to satisfy an individual. Corresponding, the Lord’s wife is the hunter and she considers and looks at Sir Gawain as an art. She tells him, “be with me as you will (and) I am well content” (Borroff, 1215). The lady “hunts” Sir Gawain based on her carnal desire by making an utterly sexual temptation over Sir Gawain.
In addition to this, she says “for I surrender myself and sue for grace and that is best, I believe and behooves me now” (Borroff, 1216-1217). In this manner, Sir Gawain is viewed as a deer from the eyes of a hunter, or in the eyes of his Lady. Another temptation includes the law of chivalry and the rule or conception about courtly love which Sir Gawain had to honor. In respect to this rule, Sir Gawain had to show great reverence to his Lady and follow or do whatever his Lady wishes of him. Sir Gawain made a promise to his host that he would give whatever he receives or achieves in a particular day.
On that same day, the damsel tempts Sir Gawain and gives him a girdle. Due to this incident, a dilemma arises where Sir Gawain must keep it or give gift it to the host. Fearing death, Sir Gawain dealt with it by hiding the girdle and fulfilling his duties by honoring the lady’s demands. However, this caused him to break the promise he made with his host. Ultimately, Sir Gawain finds out that the “Green Knight” is actually his host. Sir Gawain tried his best in making a good decision or outcome and endeavored in attaining his objective. However, he was not successful in becoming virtuous.
Ultimately, Gawain’s weakness resulted to his downfall and made him feel that he had lost his honor, as well as his duties. On the other hand, the main theme in Odyssey, particularly in the adventures of Odysseus is the discussion of his nostos which was delayed because of the actions of Ajax. Again, in the story of Odysseus or generally in Odyssey, the female characters serve as symbols of temptation. Calypso, a nymph, had a tremendous sex appeal which caught Odysseus into her arms, preventing him from continuing his journey home. Sexual prowess, instead of brute force, was used in order to make Odysseus stay.
He was only released due to the intervention of Zeus. Aside from Calypso, there was Circe who was also a female trickster. Circe fooled Odysseus’s men and turned them into swine by drugging their beer. The drug didn’t work for Odysseus, so instead, she used her charm and lured Odysseus into her bed. In this part, bodily temptation was used against Odysseus, who in return gives in. Consequently, their journey home was delayed for another year. After being released and on their journey home, Odysseus and his men was able to meet another archetype of female temptation namely the Sirens.
The Sirens captivated Odysseus with their enchanting and very attractive songs. Again, Odysseus gives in to the temptation making him mad with desire. Odysseus’ men helped him in fighting the Siren’s charm and temptations by tying him to the ship rail. Without the help of his men, Odysseus might have already died for crashing his ship on the rocks. However, unlike Sir Gawain, Odysseus’s strong conviction of going home made him stay on his track. Despite being enchanted by Calypso to make him love her, he only shared his tears.
Moreover, despite being bribed with sex and attractive women, his heart still beats and yearns for home. Lastly, the love which he felt for his wife Penelope, made him stronger and more fervent to go home. Due to this difference, it can be said that the yearning heart of Odysseus is kept safe from the tainted hands of those alluring and tempting seductresses. In addition to this, because of these differences as well as the manner of how they dealt with their problem, regardless of being two great hero seduced with the same, ironically, these male protagonists experienced different results.