The Hero’s Death in the Epic of Beowulf

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The Hero’s Death in Beowulf Some literary scholars maintain that Beowulf developed character flaws through the course of the long narrative poem, and that at the time of his death he was a victim of pride, avarice, selfishness and an inordinate craving for glory. The purpose of this essay is to show that he was a tremendous hero from beginning to end. Towards the end of the poem, when the fire-dragon ravaged the Geatish land and burned down King Beowulf’s mead-hall: To the good king it was great anguish, pain deep in mind. The wise man believed he . . . had broken the old law; his breast welled with dark thoughts strange to his mind (2327ff). What was “the old law?” “When the dragon’s ravages begin, the poet makes the aged Beowulf fear that he has transgressed ofer ealde riht (against ancient law) (2330): pagans have their own moral code, separating them from the author and us” (Frank 52). The last thing said of the dead hero was that he was lofgeornost (most eager for fame). Is this a Christian quality? This scholar says No: “To say with your last word that the hero, above all men, desired to be praised, wanted a glory bestowed by his fellows, is to insinuate that the hero is wanting, by Christian standards”(Bloom 3). In Beowulf, the hero possesses extraordinary qualities: “He was the strongest of men alive in that day, mighty and noble.” Upon spotting Beowulf approaching, the sea-guard of the Danes says, “Never have I seen a greater man on earth…” King Hrothgar of the Danes says of Beowulf, “Seafarers who took gifts to the Geats ... ... middle of paper ... ...owulf has become a king who is now confronted with an enemy over whom he is not able to win a victory by himself. Even with Wiglaf’s assistance our hero loses his own life in the contest. It is an heroic death, with no moral decay involved, which crowns an indisputably heroic life. BIBLIOGRAPHY Bloom, Harold. “Introduction.” In Modern Critical Interpretations: Beowulf, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977. Fry, Donald K.. “Introduction.” In TheBeowulf Poet, edited by Donald K. Fry. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968. Ogilvy, J.D.A. and Donald C. Baker. “Beowulf’s Heroic Death.” In Readings on Beowulf, edited by Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,1998.

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