Beowulf Literary Analysis Essay


Along the many lines of the epic poem, Beowulf’s personality remains unchanged. Herepresents a warrior with the qualities and strength of both a god and a man. The author depictsBeowulf as a hero but also presents his hubris as one of his tragic flaws. He obtains a sort of“magic power” when he makes a firm commitment to persist to a challenge. Beowulf isdescribed as a hero who is bigger than life itself not only because of his confidence andadventurous personality but by the way his men look upon him sets the standard for modernheroes.

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The author uses this to describe someone who they’ll admire or something that the authorhopes or wants to see worldwide. Both an epic hero and a tragic hero, Beowulf’s heart is led notonly about caring for those who follow him but also the glory after each conquest. Beowulf is notarrogant in his accomplishments as he deserves success after many triumphs. Would Beowulfstill be successful as a warrior if not led by pure glory and honor after each battle? Does Beowulf truly care about those who he leads or fame and fortune? Does Beowulf’s excessive lust andgreed overshadow his accomplishments?The author continues to focus on Beowulf’s excessive pride as a reason for hisproficiency.

Read more: Beowulf Descriptive Essay

They emphasize pride as Beowulf’s archetype, the universal patterns of humannature is pride and greed. All humans whether at some point in their life or another are allmotivated by pride, the confidence in their accomplishments, or contentment in receivingareward after the fact. Suppose someone is tasked with selling a car and is successful, confidencein his ability to sell the car and the motivation for the reward (Payment) after all contributed tosuccess. So to can this be applied to Beowulf when confronted with the opportunity to slayGrendel.

Confidence in his prowess and the success of previous triumphs motivated his skill innot only killing Grendel but taking a keepsake with him, to display to his men of a victoriousmission. This one tragic flaw is evident in something as simple as when he was challenged toswimming across the sea by Breca. Beowulf’s response was ​“But the truth is simple: no manswims in the sea as I can, no strength is a match for mine.”

Beowulf in this case is not totally fullof pride alone, but he is also very competitive. His conviction of his expertise is clearly evidentthrough his triumph and superhuman capabilities. Had Beowulf failed at every mission and yetcontinued to boast about it as if he’d succeeded then he would have an unhealthy ego and hewould not be exalted by his followers. However Beowulf was successful and deserves glorybecause of his adept leadership.

Beowulf offers a favor to Hrothgar to slay Grendel and then holds a feast dedicated toBeowulf’s honor. A jealous Dane named Unferth calls out Beowulf and claims that Beowulf doesn’t deserve his status. Beowulf responds by not only presenting evidence of his pastachievements but by giving credit to the Danish warriors. This is proof that Beowulf doesn’tsolely take full credit for his success but acknowledged those with him.

During Beowulf’sencounter with Grendel, Beowulf goes above and beyond by proving he is much more powerful,faster, and stronger than the monster by simply battling him unarmed. Beowulf could’ve simplyended the battle much easier and smoother had he wielded his weapons. As the dragon utilizesits teeth to bite people in half, it will bring him greater honor if he slays the monster with his barehands. If an enemy is unarmed, no matter how deadly they are it would be dishonorable andBeowulf doesn’t miss out on opportunities for glory.

Beowulf’s dominance over the femaledragon is celebrated after an intense battle that ultimately results when the hero takes one of herown blades and deals her a blow to the neck. Certainly he could’ve waited until Grendel&’s mothershowed up at the hall where his men were waiting but instead Beowulf chose to sought her outhimself as just another example of Beowulf putting himself in greater danger for the sake ofpersonal acclamation.

Beowulf’s achievements are not purely motivated by pride alone though as he genuinelyhas a desire to protect the will of his people. Those he leads think highly of him and withoutfollowers there can be no leader. “If this combat kills me, take care /of my young company, mycomrades in arms. /And be sure also, my beloved Hrothgar, /to send Hygelac the treasures I havereceived.”(1249-1491)

This shows that Beowulf not only cares about his men but thinks abouthis warriors first then his possessions and treasure. He has a strong compassion for his men andwants to ensure that Hrothgar understands what to do with the treasure afterwards. No doubt hehas superhuman strength but so does Grendel, it’s the noble intentions and attributes thatcontribute to his heroic deeds and glory that he receives.

“ Who valuable gift-gems of theGeatmen carried/As peace offer thither, that he thirty men’s grapple/ Has in his hand, the hero inbattle.” Beowulf has the might of thirty men, more than double what he brought with him towage against Grendel. Certainly his greed and lust for nobility and prestige could have beenoverlooked. But those distinctions did not overshadow his accomplishments because Beowulfwas not completely driven by those aspects only but driven by the virtue of loyalty andfaithfulness. He speaks truth when naming his achievements, Beowulf isn’t high-minded orarrogant but is only confident in his abilities and prowess because of his success.

Beowulf represents and demonstrates faith in not just himself or his expertise but in God,as he gives thanks to him for every triumph. There are several biblical references in Beowulf, forinstance, when the author states that Grendel is the descendant of Cain. Cain. who murdered hisbrother Abel because of jealousy, doesn’t represent good and righteousness but an ambassador ofinjustice and evil. Beowulf’s tragic flaw (pride) is the result of both his death, and his success tocomplete what everybody else before couldn’t. “Choose, dear Beowulf, the better part,/eternalrewards.

Do not give way to pride. For a brief while your strength is in bloom but itfades/quickly; and soon there will follow/illness or the sword to lay you low,/or a sudden fire orsurge of water/or jabbing blade or javelin from the air/or repellent age. Your piercing eye/willdim and darken; and death will arrive, /dear warrior, to sweep you away." (1759-1768) Beowulfhas found a perfect balance between being humble and being full of pride. Beowulf is then toldby Hrothgar that life alone is a gift from God and that he shouldn’t be absorbed by his earthlypossessions.

When Beowulf returns from his battle with Grendel’s mother, he returns the swordwhich happens to have been useless back to Unferth. But instead of criticizing the sword andmocking Unferth, he admires the weapon. Beowulf represents somebody who “ puts their moneywhere their mouth is.” He backs up his claims and executes the mission as he says he will. Beowulf’s last words were: I thank God that I can give my people these gifts of gold.”

Not onlydoes this demonstrate his gratitude to God but his compassion to his people. He acknowledgesthat he wasn’t the only sole person responsible for his success and fortune. In lines (1925-2210),after Beowulf returns and he describes his battle with Grendel, he is then gifted with a great dealof treasure. As time goes by, Hygelac is killed in battle and Beowulf is crowned as the new kingof the Geats.

The fact that he rules wisely and great for fifty years proves that his people alongthose who went to battle with him accept him and idolize his revered status. Is Beowulf’s arrogance or truly believing in himself? Beowulf commits himself to doinganything he sees fit a worthy challenge and he persists to ensure success.

Someone or somethingwill always manifest itself to help him. For example, in lines (624-625) ​“Of my mail shirt, theseshining bits of metal Woven across my breast, saved me from death.” Beowulf is battlinggrendel’s mother and when she unleashes her claws and strikes him the chain-mail saves his life.

Beowulf’s power and capabilities are inexhaustible, he takes advantage of each opportunity togrow and he is determined to fight to the fullest extent of his prowess. During Beowulf’s reign asKing, it is said that he rules wisely for fifty years and brings prosperity to Geatland (pull quotesfrom the lines) which proves that The Geats are comfortable and confident in his reign.

Acapable and skillful king, his conviction is his motivation and he believes in himself. Heexpresses himself clearly and his mind is always focused on what he is doing. Beowulf is totallyin control of every situation. He never passes on an opportunity for glory and anything or anyonethat presents a worthy challenge he will commit himself to victory whether or not his life issaved or lost. Beowulf is aware of the things he does well and he accepts compliments with gratitude. He is devoted to every goal and earnestly begins a mission with a methodical sense of keentactics.

When Beowulf is waging a battle against the dragon (2518-2524), he explains that he isfully geared up and definitely prepared. He allows himself the full advantage against the dragonbecause it wields its own advantages: poisonous venom and the ability to breathe fire. Beowulfknows that this behemoth is unlike no other and not bringing the very best of his armor would bejust foolish. Deep down even with Beowulf’s superhuman capabilities knows that he cannot takedown the beast with his bare hands and walk away untouched.

However, the book leaves noroom for suspense and explains that Beowulf is destined to die in this battle (2341-2349). He waswarned by Hrothgar about his pride and goes to fight the dragon with the same courage andbelief that he still possesses the same level of enhanced strength and agility 50 years before. Indeed he still does possess a certain level of proficiency as he did, but he cannot execute thatsame level of finesse in battle. Beowulf has all that it takes to be successful. He has theintelligence, the ambition, the energy, and the persistence.

A picture is depicted about him thathe can adapt to any situation and nothing can stand in his way. Beowulf is aware of his everyencounter and aware of the hazardous roads that lead him to these encounters. Beowulf doesn'talways expect the best to come out of every battle either, before he goes to fight Grendel he tellsHrothgar to send some chain-mail back to his family just in case he is slain.

Would Beowulf still be successful as a warrior if not guided by pure honor and glory?The answer: Yes. For instance, Beowulf gives credit where credit is due. In lines I wish to givethanks, speaking such words as I may, to the almighty Ruler, the King crowned with glory, theeternal Lord, for these riches I look on here by the barrow, that I have been blessed to acquire formy dear people, before the time of my passing. The poet demonstrates Christian elements fromBeowulf while also acknowledging the fact that Beowulf is giving glory to God.

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