Considering the poets' descriptions of Heorot (lines 63-91 in Beowulf) and Camelot (lines 37-106 in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight), how are the two halls similar and different?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For King Arthur, Camelot was not only his kingdom, but a place of worship; whereas, the Hall Heorot was what the poet calls a "mead-building." Mead is beer, so basically Heorot was a pub or bar. King Arthur's hall, though, had a chapel and a place for feasting. Both buildings were considered large and able to accommodate many guests. Heorot is described as "tall, high and wide-gabled" as well as a "tall house" used for "beer-drinking" (p. 2-3 of Donaldson's translation). For Camelot, descriptions not only mention the chapel, but a "high dais" or stage, upon which the King and Queen sat with other high-ranking officials to oversee the rest of the feast's company. Camelot also had a canopy over head and embroidered tapestries flowing from the ceilings. The description of each hall can also be discovered by what type of guests assembled there. In Heorot, only warrior men went there to have a drink with their buddies. Camelot's hall, on the other hand, received noble guests, male and female, for the purpose of public entertainment and merriment. They probably drank and got drunk there, too, but that was not anything noble to note. The Gawain poet also took time to address what everyone wore and to list all of the riches and fine food that were available at Arthur's feast. This suggests that high ranking people of noble birth took great care for this event and that it wasn't a place for war--only stories of gallant battles. Heorot, meaning heart, was a casual place of socializing, but again, only men of the time went there and shared their brave stories as well. The two halls, similarly, though, both have a great event take place right before their eyes. In both events, the lines of war or magic are crossed which set the stages for great stories.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two poems are written in very different genres, with one being an Anglo-Saxon epic and the other a medieval romance. The two cultures described also differ, with that of Beowulf being poorer and more warlike and that of Arthurian Romance being wealthier and more courtly.

The first main difference is that although Hereot was considered magnificent within the context of the poem, that context is one of a society in which people lived in simple wood or peat longhouses. Hereot was a wood building, probably a large longhouse, with some gold ornaments. The main furniture would have been benches lining the long walls of the hall. It was part of a culture in which most wealth consisted of jewelry and limited stores of precious metals. Ordinarily, such a building would have been home to the king and his family and served as a center and meeting place for government business, where warriors would gather and people visit to petition or conduct business with the king. One can assume that due to the depredations of Grendel, women, children, and all people not capable of fighting were sent elsewhere, and that Hereot became a sort of armed camp under siege.

Camelot was a palace with extensive grounds and outbuildings. It would have been constructed of stone and had many separate rooms, including a great hall and a chapel. The walls were covered with tapestries, and tables and chairs would have been used for dining. We get an impression of great wealth. Surrounding the main building were outbuildings and grounds. We get the impression of a large town with many families as permanent residents and a vast horde of visitors staying in large tents erected for the festivities.

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