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Heroism as the Main Theme of Beowulf Essay

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Heroism as the Main Theme of Beowulf

The main theme of Beowulf is heroism. This involves far more than
physical courage. It also means that the warrior must fulfil his
obligations to the group of which he is a key member. There is a
clear-cut network of social duties depicted in the poem. The king has
an obligation to behave with generosity. He must reward his thanes
with valuable gifts for their defense of the tribe and their success
in battle. This is why King Hrothgar is known as the "ring-giver." He
behaves according to expectations of the duties of a lord when he
lavishly rewards Beowulf and the other Geat warriors for ridding the
Danes of Grendel's menace.
But the thanes have their obligations too. (A thane is a warrior who
has been rewarded by his king with a gift of land.) They must show
undivided loyalty to their lord. Only in this way can the society
survive, because the world depicted in Beowulf is a ruthless and
dangerous one. The warriors must be prepared for battle at all times.
Only in the mead-hall is there any respite from the dangers of the
world outside. As Seamus Heaney writes in his introduction to the
poem: "Here [in the mead-hall] is heat and light, rank and ceremony,
human solidarity and culture" (p. xv). This is why the coming of
Grendel is so traumatic for the Danes. They are being attacked in
their own sanctuary.
Beowulf is the greatest of the heroes depicted in the poem not only
because he has the greatest prowess in battle. He also perfectly
fulfills his social obligations. He has the virtues of a civilized
man, as well as the strength of the warrior. He looks after his people
...


... middle of paper ...


...im a true hero. Strength, courage, loyalty, and
fame. If these truly are the defining factors in each great hero, how
then are the heroes different from the villains. Doesn't Grendels
mother have all of the same qualities. She was strong courageous,
loyal to her son, and though she dies, famous through her battle with
Beowulf. In the end the

Anglo-Saxon hero is not merely defined by his traits, but by his
appearance through the eyes of his God (or at least how the people
perceive God's vision). The lord sees Beowulf as good, therefor he is
a hero. The grendel family, as well as the dragon are seen as
abominations by lord, so they are evil. Hero's are therefor nothing
more than good looking villains who posses social graces. And yet they
still inspire us to be good. And so Beowuld remains a hero - and an
immortal.


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