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Epic of Beowulf Essay – Traits of The Anglo-Saxon Hero

Beowulf – Traits of The Anglo-Saxon Hero

Within the tale of “Beowulf” four character traits can be found which define the Anglo Saxon Hero. The first is loyalty, as demonstrated by the relationship between Lord and thane. According to page 23 of the “Beowulf” introduction, “a relationship based less on subordination of one man’s will to another than on mutual trust and respect.” The second and third characteristics are strength and courage. The importance of these specific traits to the Anglo-Saxon people is clearly presented during the reciting of Sigemund’s tale within Heorot. As the song states, “He was adventurer most famous, far and wide through the nations, for deed of courage – he had prospered from that before, the protector of warriors – after the war-making of Heremod had come to an end, his strength and his courage” (38). The final piece which comprises the Anglo-Saxon hero is the notion of fame. The only after life a warrior could ever aspire to have was immortality through fame. One again this is explained by the introduction to the story, “Beowulf’s chief reward is pagan immortality the memory in the minds of later generations of a hero’s heroic actions” (24-25). By understanding what defines a hero it is a simple matter to comprehend why Beowulf is considered by some to be the greatest of all. He posses unfaltering loyalty to his king and allies, and save for his final battle his thanes show the same devotion to him. His strength is unparalleled, as he is able to defeat each of his opponents and perform feats of unmatched endurance. Beowulf’s courage, though motivated primarily by his own notion of fate, is, none the less, unwavering. And as a hero he achieved his desire for immortality through the poem itself. Each of the four heroic traits can be identified within the three battles in which Beowulf participates: His battle with Grendel, his undersea struggle with the Grendel’s Mother, and his final fight with the dragon. Before going off to do battle with Grendel, Beowulf gives a speech that may appear conceited to the modern reader, but is in actuality a simple device used to insure his immortality through fame. Beowulf states, “I claim myself no poorer in war strength, war works, than Grendel claims himself. Therefor I will not put him to sleep with a sword… and then may wise God, Holy Lord, assign glory on whichever hand seems good to him” (35-36).

Comparison of Beowulf and Oedipus Rex

Comparison of Beowulf and Oedipus Rex

Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon folk epic written by an unknown author. It was written sometime during the eighth century. Oedipus Rex is an Ancient Greek tragedy written by the playwright Sophocles sometime around 430 BC. Although the two works were written during two different time periods, in two different places, and are different kinds of literature, they contain many similarities in the manner in which they depict a hero and the depiction of government.

Beowulf tells the story of one of the most heroic men of Anglo-Saxon times. The hero, Beowulf, is able to use his super-human physical strength and courage to put his people before himself. He encounters terrifying monsters and the most brutal beasts, but he never fears the threat of death. Beowulf is the ultimate epic hero who risks his life countless times for great honor and for the good of others. Oedipus Rex is a tragic play, which discusses the tragic discovery of Oedipus–that he has killed his father, and married his mother. He is self-confident, intelligent, and strong willed. Ironically these are the very traits which bring about his tragic discovery. Oedipus gains the rule of Thebes by answering the riddle of Sphinx.

The two heroes, Beowulf and Oedipus, are very similar in some aspects and also quite different in others. The first similarity in the depiction of hero is that both heroes are of aristocratic birth. Beowulf is the cousin of Higlac, who is King of the Geats. Oedipus is the adopted son of Polybus and Merope, the King and Queen of Corinth. Furthermore, his real parents are Laius and Jocasta, King and Queen of Thebes. Another similarity is that both heroes end a period of suffering by abolishing a monster. Beowulf ends the suffering in Herot by killing the monster Grendel. “A prince of the Geats, had killed Grendel, / Ended the grief, the sorrow, the suffering / Forced on Hrothgar’s helpless people / By a bloodthirsty fiend.” (lines 482 – 485) Oedipus is responsible for ending the Sphinx’s reign of terror upon the city of Thebes. He does not physically kill the monster as Beowulf does; he merely answers the Sphinx’s riddle. When he does so, the Sphinx kills herself. A third similarity is that both heroes are challenged by another character in the story.

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