Essay about Analysis of Epic Poem Beowulf

Essay about Analysis of Epic Poem Beowulf

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Beowulf is the conventional title of an Old English epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines, set in Scandinavia, commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature due to the fact that it is the oldest surviving epic poem of Old English and also the earliest vernacular English literature. Tragedy and epic have been much discussed as separate genres, but critics have not hesitated to designate certain characters and events in epics as tragic. For the most part, they have assumed or asserted an identity between epic and dramatic tragedy. Even in The Odyssey, Penelope and Telemachus suffer enough to rouse their deep passions and to force them like the tragic sufferer to consider their own predicaments in the world they live in. C.L. Wrenn wrote on Beowulf, “A Germanic hero is a tragic hero, who shows his highest greatness not alone in winning glory by victory, but rather by finding his supremely noble qualities especially in the moment of death in battle” (Wrenn 91). Beowulfs hubris, the representation of wealth as a profiling characteristic for the villages, and Beowulf’s ability to find his might in his moment of “death,” all show the very nature of the poem which defines it as not only an epic poem, but also a tragic one.
One of Beowulf's major flaws is his large ego. His hubris, or excessive pride, is the tragic flaw that causes his death. It's important for Beowulf to show strength even when there isn't an important heroic task to be accomplished. When there aren't demons or dragons to fight, he gets into, "swimming contests" with other warriors: “Well, friend Unferth, you have had your say about Breca and me. But it was mostly beer that was doing the talking. The truth is this: when the ...


... middle of paper ...


...ctor for Beowulf to be labeled as a tragedy is shown in a light that may not be considered tragic by normal twenty first century norms, but rather 8th century Scandinavian norms: the supreme finding of Beowulf’s true might in his moments of “death.” By normal standards, this work is seen as an epic, however when seen through the light of the very characteristics that Beowulf exemplifies while completing his daunting tasks, the “epic” can also be classified as a tragedy.


Works Cited

Foster, Edward E. “Beowulf, the Epic Hero” Masterplots, Revised Second Edition, Salem Press, Ed.
Salem, Mass. 1996.
Langer, Susanne K. Problems of Art; Ten Philosophical Lectures. New York: Scribner, 1957. Print.
Wrenn, Charles L. Beowulf: With the Finnesburg Fragment. London: Harrap, 1953. Print.
Wright, David. Beowulf. Baltimore, MD: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 1957. Print.

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