Epic of Beowulf Essay - Beowulf as Tragic Hero

Epic of Beowulf Essay - Beowulf as Tragic Hero

Length: 1434 words (4.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Beowulf as Tragic Hero

By definition, a tragic hero is a protagonist that due to some tragic flaw loses everything he has. Throughout history, literature has always been filled with main characters possessing some tragic flaw. In Macbeth, Macbeth’s tragic flaw is his enormous ambition to become king. In Hamlet, Hamlet’s tragic flaw is his need for revenge for the death of his father at the hands of his uncle. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh’s tragic flaw is his need to be remembered. In the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, Beowulf also has a tragic flaw, excessive pride and the search for fame, which ultimately leads to his demise.

Beowulf was a highly skilled and great fighter, but because of his over-confidence in himself the fire-breathing dragon kills him. Beowulf’s excessive pride is evident from the very beginning of the epic. He is almost always boasting about himself to one person or the other. In the first part of the epic, when Beowulf first travels to Hrothgar’s kingdom to rid him of Grendel, he talks about the mighty deeds he has done in his life. “Hail, Hrothgar, health ever keep you! I am Hyglelac’s thane and kinsman; mighty deeds I have done in my youth…they saw themselves how I came from combat bloodied by enemies where I crushed down five, killed a tribe of giants, and on the waves at night slew water-beasts; no easy task, but I dove out trouble from Geatland-they asked for it, the enemies I killed.”(Beowulf p73) One can easily picture him standing proud and tall in front of a multitude of fellow warriors, proclaiming all the deeds he has accomplished in his lifetime.

Beowulf has no doubt in his mind that he is more than able to kill the wretched Grendel. But because of his overconfidence and populari...

... middle of paper ...

...soon after his death his kingdom was taken over.

Beowulf perfectly fits the definition of “tragic hero” as evidenced in the epic poem, Beowulf.  He is defiantly the hero in the story, but as a result of his tragic flaws of having too much pride and seeking fame, he loses his life and his kingdom falls into the hands of the enemy.

Works Cited and Consulted

Chambers, R. W. Beowulf: An Introduction. Cambridge: Univ. Press, 1967.

Emmerson, Richard K. and Bernard McGinn. The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages. Ithaca: Cornell, 1992.

Garmonsway, et. al. Beowulf and Its Analogues. New York: Dutton, 1971.

Gang, T. M. "Approaches to Beowulf." RES 3 (1952):.6-12.

Hieatt, Constance B. "Envelope Patterns and the Structure of Beowulf," English Studies in Canada 1 (1975): 249-265.

Sandars, N. K., trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh. London: Penguin, 1972.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay about The Tragic Hero Of William Shakespeare 's ' Beowulf '

- How are people’s legacies remembered in history. From the beginning of recorded history, there have been heroic and villainous figures in literature. Back in the days when Old English was spoken, a hero could be found in the form of the figure, Beowulf, from the epic poem of the same name. A villain could be found in literature in Shakespearean England in the form of the immoral king, Macbeth, from the tragedy of the same name. While heroes and villains appear as literary figures throughout history, they also appear as real life historical figures....   [tags: Beowulf, Epic poetry, Duncan I of Scotland]

Powerful Essays
1088 words (3.1 pages)

Essay on Beowulf : The Epic Hero

- Beowulf: The Epic Hero Throughout time, society has come in contact with individuals who are praised due to their bravery, loyalty, strength and a tendency to go beyond the limit. One may call this individual a hero, and if asked to give some examples of heroism, one may pick the classical literary hero Beowulf. According to Roger B. Rolling, Beowulf is classified as a Type I hero who, “if superior in degree to other men but not to his natural environment, … is a leader. He has authority, passions, and powers of expression far greater than ours but is subject both to social criticism and to the order of nature” (434)....   [tags: Beowulf, Hero, Hroðgar, Beowulf]

Powerful Essays
1013 words (2.9 pages)

Essay on Beowulf : The Epic Hero

- The epic poem, Beowulf, was written in the Anglo-Saxon period and entails a story of an epic hero who is depicted as a hero of great strength, power, and other abilities people don’t normally posses; however, in the finality of epic poems, the epic hero will fall tragically. Knowing this, it proves and reminds the readers that an epic hero is still human. Beowulf is structured into three parts: the battle with Grendel, Grendel’s Mother, and the dragon. Each section is surrounded around Beowulf and his actions, and they all show the epic hero’s moral choices....   [tags: Beowulf, Epic poetry, Greek loanwords, Fiction]

Powerful Essays
1008 words (2.9 pages)

Essay on The Epic Of Beowulf By William Shakespeare

- Beowulf, his name is one synonymous with heroism, bravery and loyalty. When Hollywood released this latest edition in the retelling of the famous epic poem, they took various liberties. Throughout the film they kept certain aspects of the play so it is obvious to recognize the source material. An excellent example is two of the main characters, Beowulf and Hrothgar, both who behave differently than their poetic counterparts. These various differences ends up changing how their version plays out, how the story develops....   [tags: Beowulf, Epic poetry, Change, Family]

Powerful Essays
1227 words (3.5 pages)

The Epic Of Beowulf By William Tolkien Essay

- Over time, many experts criticize the poem Beowulf. According to J. R. R. Tolkien, most critics talk about how Beowulf’s plot has unnecessary characters and how certain pieces of the plot are not in the right places. Tolkien, who is a fan of Beowulf, writes a speech of why Beowulf is a great piece of literature. He states that the poet writes the poem so well that most people see it historically incorrect (The Monsters and the Critics). Tolkien does agree that Beowulf is not historically accurate, but that is not the point....   [tags: Beowulf, KILL, Hero, Grendel's mother]

Powerful Essays
1045 words (3 pages)

The Epic Of Beowulf By William Shakespeare Essay

- Beowulf is brimming with a variety of symbols, motifs, and themes. When examined through a through an analytical lens, it is obvious that the poem uses simplicity to reveal much deeper meaning. Beowulf’s slaying of monsters is not transparent, on the contrary, the majority of the text’s substance is found within the encounters that Beowulf has with these creatures. The hero’s encounter with the dragon is an allusion to the sin of greed, while his battles against the monsters in general show his heroic nature....   [tags: Beowulf, Grendel, Hero, Greek loanwords]

Powerful Essays
1006 words (2.9 pages)

Epic Of Old English, Beowulf, Is The Oldest Surviving Long Poem? Essay

- Deemed to be the oldest surviving long poem in Old English, Beowulf, has remained a timeless classic. This epic poem was written in England in the early centuries of civilization- approximately between the 8th or 10th century (Abrams pg. 36). Although the author has remained a mystery, several propositions have been made as to who may have been the passionate poet of such a work. Nonetheless, the poem exceeds expectations. The action-packed thriller entertains the readers while also offering historical insight....   [tags: Beowulf, Paganism, Epic poetry, Grendel]

Powerful Essays
1889 words (5.4 pages)

The Pessimism of Beowulf in the Epic Poem, Beowulf Essay

-     Anticipation of catastrophe, doom, gloom are present in Beowulf rom beginning to end, even in the better half of the poem, Part I. Perhaps this is part of what makes it an elegy – the repeated injection of sorrow and lamentation into every episode. In his essay, “The Pessimism of Many Germanic Stories,” A. Kent Hieatt says of the poem Beowulf: The ethical life of the poem, then, depends upon the propositions that evil. . . that is part of this life is too much for the preeminent man. . . .  that after all our efforts doom is there for all of us” (48)....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essay]

Powerful Essays
2836 words (8.1 pages)

Essay on Women’s Roles in the Epic of Beowulf

- Women’s Roles in Beowulf         Are women in this poem active equals of the men. Or are they passive victims of the men. The role of the women in Beowulf is not a stereotyped one of passive homemaker, but rather one having freedom of choice, range of activity, and room for personal growth and development, such as is reflected in Anglo-Saxon England of the time.   Beowulf makes reference to Ingeld and his wife and the coming Heathobard feud:                                                               in that hot passion his love for peace-weaver,                    his wife, will cool (2065-66)   This is a rare passage, for Anglo-Saxon poetry rarely mentions romantic...   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essay]

Powerful Essays
1158 words (3.3 pages)

Beowulf Essay

- Beowulf Beowulf was written during the Anglo-Saxon time period. Beowulf is a story about a young warrior and his quest through life. Some people consider Beowulf a tragic hero, and some people just consider him a hero period. Whether Beowulf is a tragic hero or not, he fights many great battles. The reason Beowulf fights stays basically the same but it changes a little. In the beginning of the book, Beowulf goes to help the Danes out by killing Grendel. Grendel is a ferocious monster that has been killing the Danes in the mead hall (115)....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]

Free Essays
828 words (2.4 pages)