Comparison of King Arthur and ancient heroes (Beowulf, Gilgamesh and Achilles) shows changes in the ideology of people.
The analysis of common and contrast features of the heroes will give a better understanding of how literary ideals, principles and values changed within the time.
All of these heroes were fighting for the sake of people’s well-being. These are the ideals of leaders, which common people could rely on. All of them fought not for personal glory, but for the benefit of people, and were ready to sacrifice their lives. Ancient heroes are ideals of manly, brave and generous warriors and kings.
As for the contrasts, I’d like to say that the first difference is predominance of paganism in earlier heroic literature, while the times of Arthur are characterized by the spread of Christianity. Beowulf, Gilgamesh and Achilles were first examples of literary heroes, based on ancient myths, while King Arthur represents the end of knighthood, medieval chivalry and feudalism. King Arthur fights against numerous enemies with the help of his glorious sword, while Beowulf slays monsters without weapon. And his fight symbolizes the triumph of a man over powers of darkness and evil. Unlike ancient heroic literature, King Arthur’s stories praise bravery of many noble knights, not one hero.
A significant contrast between King Arthur and previous heroes is appreciation of human values, which are love, honesty, nobility and moral. Though, for Gilgamesh, nobility becomes valuable as well. At first, he strives for immortality, but realizing that only gods can be immortal, he decides that noble life and decent deeds will guarantee immortality in the form of eternal memory of people.
Finally I’d like to say, that my analysis shows the evolution of ideal heroes. The main difference between the characters is practicism of ancient heroes on the one hand, and spiritual richness of King Arthur on the other.