Beowulf is one of the oldest existing poems in the English language. Originally written in Anglo-Saxon, it has been translated to give readers the opportunity to enjoy this colorful, heroic poem of England’s epic age. It has been declared as a heroic-elegaic poem because of the various characteristics it clearly possesses. An epic consists of a hero who is larger than life. Beowulf is unquestionably a perfect example of this hero because of the amazing acts of heroism he commits. Epic characters also give numerous speeches that revel something about the past or the speaker’s characteristics. Beowulf does not give many, but from those he gives, the reader leans about his character traits. The language of the epic style is an elevated, rather formal language. Similes, kennings, and many other literary techniques are used throughout the poem. Beowulf clearly contains many epic characteristics and the following essay will present the evidence needed to support this allegation. Firstly, epic characters hold high position—kings, princes, noblemen, and members of the aristocracy—but the epic hero must be more than that. He must be able to perform outstanding deeds, be greater than the average character, and be of heroic proportions. Most of all, he must have super-human courage. The poet first describes Beowulf as “…greater/And stronger than anyone anywhere in this world” (Raffel 195-196), without informing us about what he did to acquire this reputation. The reader initially sees him through the awestruck eyes of the Danish soldier patrolling the cliffs. Beowulf’s appearance–his size, his armor–obviously commands immediate respect and attention. When asked by the soldier to identify himself and give detail of his visit, he says he is not there to challenge Hrothgar’s power but to perform a task to the lord. He respects the legitimacy of Hrothgar’s kingship and has no intention of usurping the throne. He preforms in the same honorable manner when he refuses the kingship after Hygelac’s death. He accepts the crown only after Hygelac’s son is killed in battle. Beowulf’s super-human courage is shown when he went into battle with Grendel, Grendel’s mother and the dragon. He shows he is fearless when he says, “I’d use no sword, no weapon, if this beast/ Could be killed without it, crushed to death/Like Grendel”(Raffel 2518-2520) before he fights the dragon, which ultimately kills him. Epic characters generally deliver numerous speeches, all of which move the action forward, tell something about the past, or reveal the speakers character traits.
Epic of Beowulf Essay – Paganism and Virtue
Beowulf – Paganism and Virtue
The Anglo-Saxons living in the time of Beowulf did not believe in the afterlife. To them, the only way to experience life after death was to live on in the memories of others. One could fulfill this goal by being known for one’s generosity, courage, and strength. Beowulf, the protagonist of this epic poem, embodied all of these virtues and lives on in memory because of this.
First, generosity was widespread and more greatly valued during Beowulf’s time than it is now. It was not merely a virtue, but instead a necessity. Many kings were measured by the extent of their generosity.To him in the hall, then, Healfdane’s songave treasures twelve, and the trust-of-earlsbade him fare with the gifts to his folk beloved,hale to his home, and in haste return.This is Hrothgar’s (Healfdane’s son) way of being generous and thanking Beowulf for slaying Grendel and it’s mother. This gift not only increased Beowulf’s fame and riches but also Hrothgar’s greatness. If Hrothgar had not displayed his gratitude for Beowulf’s great deeds he would have been looked down upon. He might be remembered for his lack of charity instead, and that would be the equivalent of going to hell for the early Anglo-Saxons. Everyone wanted to be remembered, but only for admirable things. Being remembered for a shameful life would be much worse than dying.Yea, death is better for liegemen all than a life of shame! Next, courage and strength were also looked highly upon during these pre-medieval times. In our time courage is often seen as foolish or ostentatious, while during Beowulf’s time it was seen as admirable and praiseworthy.‘Twas now, men say, in his sovran’s need that the earl made known his noble strain, craft and keenness and courage enduring… Heedless of harm, though his hand was burned, hardy-hearted, he helped his kinsman. A little lower the loathsome beast he smote with sword; his steel drove in bright and burnished; that blaze began to lose and lessen… So had they killed it, kinsmen both, athelings twain: thus an earl should be in danger’s day! — Of deeds of valor this conqueror’s-hour of the king was last, of his work in the world.Slaying the great dragon was not only Beowulf’s last act of courage, but also Wiglaf’s first. Beowulf eventually died from a wound suffered in this battle and had a tower constructed in his memory.