Personality Traits In Beowulf

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Heroes in epics typically exemplify the values of a particular culture, and the eponymous protagonist of Beowulf is no different. Because Beowulf represents the ideal Anglo-Saxon warrior and king, readers can infer that his personality traits are those that were held in high esteem by members of Anglo-Saxon society. As depicted in Seamus Haney’s translation of Beowulf, Beowulf’s strength, loyalty, and acceptance of fate are traits that were admired by his society. The time of the Anglo-Saxons was rife with tribal warfare. This meant that men were expected to be strong fighters capable of protecting and avenging their people. Beowulf certainly has a reputation for strength among his own people. In his initial boast to Hrothgar, he proclaims…show more content…
Beowulf is meant to represent the ideal warrior and king. As such, readers can infer that the Anglo-Saxons held his character traits in high esteem. As depicted in Seamus Haney’s translation of Beowulf, Beowulf’s strength, loyalty, and acceptance of fate are traits that were admired by his society. The time of the Anglo-Saxons was rife with tribal warfare. This meant that men had to be strong fighters capable of protecting and avenging their people. In the epic, Beowulf certainly has a reputation for strength. In his initial boast to Hrothgar, he proclaims that “all knew of [his] awesome strength” after seeing him “boltered in the blood of enemies” (418). However, the reader is not expected to take his word for it. Being the quintessential warrior, Beowulf demonstrates superior and perhaps superhuman strength throughout his battles. The clearest example of his tremendous power occurs when he rips Grendel’s arm off, causing sinews to split and bone-lappings to burst (817). None of the strongest Dane warriors with their iron weaponry could defeat Grendel, but Beowulf manages it with his bare hands. This proves that Beowulf possesses incredible strength, which his culture would have considered…show more content…
The Anglo-Saxons were highly fatalistic, feeling that Wyrd, or fate, inescapably guided their lives. To try to skirt fate as Beowulf’s thanes did by fleeing the dragon was considered the ultimate form of cowardice and led to a lifetime of shame. Beowulf shows on multiple occasions that fully surrenders to fate, even if it will lead to his death. In his first boast before fighting Grendel, he insists that he not be mourned if he fails, saying that “Fate goes ever as fate must” (455). Although he is confident that he will win the battle, he understands that it is ultimately out of his control, and that does not scare him. His refusal to use weapons indicates the same attitude, and this is repeated at the end of the poem when he decides not to “shift a foot” (2524) in response to the dragon’s attacks so that the outcome “will turn out as fate, / overseer of men, decides” (2526-27). Once again, Beowulf acknowledges that he might not win the battle, but rather than running from the fight or attempting to sway the odds in his favor, he allows it to play out as it will. That may seem ludicrous to the modern reader, but the Anglo-Saxons would have considered it to be the height of

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