Beowulf Is Heroic Essay, Research Paper
Beowulf Embodies Heroic Ideals
critical (question1, p6
In Beowulf the classic epic, Beowulf, the hero of the epic, and other major characters reflect heroic ideals and beliefs of courage, generosity, unquestioning loyalty and devotion. Courage is most evident throughout Beowulf Beowulf does not back down from any challenge that stands in his way whether it be Grendel, Grendel’s mother, or the dragon. His bravery is most evident in his preparation for his fight with Grendel, Beowulf, “took off his shirt of armour, the helmet from his head, handed his embellished sword, best of irons to an attendant,…” He chose to bravely fight his foe, man to beast without weaponery for he knew it would be “cowardly” to defeat Grendel with a sword and armor when Grendel himself had none. Even in his latter years, as an aged man, he would personally go and fight the dragon that threatened his kingdom and die doing so.
Generosity is another celebrated heroic virtue as the great king Hrothgar is quite free with his gifts of gold, finery, weapons and armor, men and hospitality. Kings are also referred to as ring-givers and are expected and supposed to be generous. Only the foul and lowly foes of society such as the slave who steals from the dragon, and the dragon itself that hoards all its treasures show such selfishness and lack of generosity.
Beowulf’s men show unquestioning loyalty as they submit their lives to their lord. The night of Beowulf’s fight with Grendel, the men are told by Beowulf to sleep (in the mead hall) and they bravely do, showing immense trust and devotion as they are aware of that they could very well increase their chance of dying when Grendel attacks if they follow as Beowulf instructs (to sleep as opposed to standing guard through the night). Beowulf remains loyal to King Hrothgar and as he promised to purge the mead hall of its murderous foes, he fulfills his pledge by killing not only Grendel, but also Grendel’s mother. Beowulf in turn is also loyal to his men as he states to King Hrothgar, “…if I at your need I should go from life, you would always be in a father’s place for me when I am gone: be guardian of my young retainers, my companions, if battle should take me.” Nor does Beowulf forget his king as he also requests that Hrothgar send the rewarded treasures and gifts to Hygelac if Grendel’s mother defeats him. Wiglaf, portrayed as the only worthy one of Beowulf’s company that joined him at his battle with the dragon, also showed loyalty in his aiding his Beowulf in fighting the dragon (as others cowardly shy away from the fight) and followed Beowulf’s instructions for carrying out his funeral and other processions after Beowulf’s death, and in his speech to the people he remained true to what happened and glorified Beowulf.
Essentially, as portrayed by the heroes of Beowulf, the “good” people should, like Beowulf, live by the heroic values of valor and courage, loyalty and devotion and together with generosity attain immortality through their glorious deeds.