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Heroes And BEOWULF Essay, Research Paper

Webster?s dictionary defines a hero as one greatly regarded for his achievements or

qualities. This is only a rough definition, and applies only somewhat to Beowulf. A hero is

usually the main character; he is, according to Mr. Renn, a man who fights for the right

reasons, usually confident and possessed of superhuman abilities, at least as it applies to

Beowulf?s time period. Less common in that period in time is the idea of hubris, a fatal

weakness on the part of every hero. Beowulf exhibits all of these characteristics

throughout the play.

Beowulf fights for the right reasons at the beginning, or at least the right reasons

as 6th century Norse warriors would?ve reckoned the term. He defeats Grendel for several

good reasons, but primarily to repay a debt of honor owed to Hrothgar because of his

father Ecgtheow. The text brings up in lines 406-407 ?So you have come here, because of

past favors, to fight on our behalf!…? and continues into the section left out of the

Holland translation.

He then proceeded to kill Grendel?s Dam in vengeance for the death of Aeschere.

In this, he acts as a champion for a friend of his new kinsman, Hrothgar. This is slightly

less honorable, yet enough so that he wins; after all, Grendel?s Dam was only avenging her

son, as stated in lines 975-976: ?mournful and ravenous, she resolved to go on a grievous

journey to avenge her son?s death.?

In the final battle, he is still fighting for mostly the right reasons: gold for his

people, as depicted in lines 1916-1920: ?With these words, I thank the King of Glory, the

Eternal Lord, the Ruler, for all these treasures here before me, that I have been able to

gain them for the Geats,? and a sense of destiny, that it was the ?fated hour.? His reward

for this battle was an honorable death in battle, and, in essence, immortality.

He is also supremely confident throughout the text, from the very first time he

meets Hrothgar, where he declared ?And now, I shall crush the giant Grendel in single

combat? (lines 375-376), to the final battle with the dragon, where he announced ?I will

fight again, the old guardian of my people, and achieve a mighty exploit if the evil

dragon dares confront me, dares come out of it?s earth-cave!? (lines 1725-1728). In any

other situation, with any other man, this would?ve been egotism, bordering on pure

insanity, but since it?s a hero, this is normal confidence; he does, after all, have the ability

to back up his boasts and threats.

This leads me to my next point; Beowulf is exceptionally powerful. It is related in

by Hrothgar that ?in the grasp of his hand that man renowned in battle has the might of

thirty men.? (lines 333-335). He has exceptional abilities, just as every classic hero

throughout mythology.

Finally, there is the idea of hubris, or a fatal flaw; in this case, it is his pride.

Hrothgar recognized this early in the play and warned Beowulf of it in lines 1386-1429.

Part of this speech is exceptionally important: ?He suffers no setbacks until the seed of

arrogance is sown and grows within him, while still the watchman slumbers; how deeply

the soul?s guardian sleeps when a man is enmeshed in matters of this world? (lines

1399-1403) and ?Arm yourself, dear Beowulf, best of men, against such diseased

thinking; always swallow pride.? This is part of the pedagogical part of this myth, but

many see it as a foreshadowing of Beowulf?s death, and see pride as one of the reasons

that Beowulf battled the dragon.


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