Essay on Beowulf and the Homeric Heroes

Essay on Beowulf and the Homeric Heroes

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As most people would try and find similarities between the characters of Homer and that of Beowulf, I am more than willing to present their differences. It is a challenge to spot their similarities, but it is a greater challenge to locate the differences between them, such differences that set them apart from each other, making them a unique entity. Now, first we must make clear our understanding of a Homeric hero. Such a character encounters four different phases in their lives. One is Arete, which would mean their excellence, the other Hubris, or excessive pride. The third is Ate, which represents their rash behavior, and the last is Nemesis, or the punishment for their actions...more commonly known as the consequence. Now these four patterns of behavior do not follow a specific order, but one thing is for sure: one leads to another, and a misstep could lead to an eternity of shadows.

Our perception of a hero is obviously far different from that of Homer's. Our virtues would have included loyalty, fidelity, courage and chivalry, but to Homer none of these really matter. A hero, is strong, is wealthy, and is honorable. Regardless of the way he obtains power (i.e. brutal, merciless, etc.) he is named a hero if he is able to meet the four patterns of behavior above. Now I wonder why it is this way. Then I realize, why not? Every hero that we have heard of in our lives, turn out to be good in every way possible, no flaw projected in whatever way. Now Homer, presents heroes that actually have flaws. Flaws that make them more human, though vulnerable, it makes their character more acceptable to society. Now the question is: which appeals more to the people? A Homeric hero, whose flaws are boasted to the people or a brave and selfle...


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...hat we wish to live up to. What people want is to be perfect, to strive for their own arête, only they do not want to reach this excellence through cunning and ruthless ways. This is the belief of today...or so some would think. I say, look at politics and your beliefs would change forever.

Homer was kind enough to offer a hero that was close to our own being. He was kind enough to have the people see reality through mythology. Beowulf on the other hand, was a sugar coated version of man's vile ways. It was gory in depiction, but Beowulf's pure intent was always on the spotlight, that little light was shed on its horrendous portrayal. So I end with yet another question. If we abhor evil, and despise trickery, why is it that we continue to love Homer's epics and so many others like his that depicts sin, and greed, and death? Human nature. That's what it is.

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