Essay on Does the Hero Decline in the Epic of Beowulf?

Essay on Does the Hero Decline in the Epic of Beowulf?

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Does the Hero Decline in Beowulf?

 
     Beowulf, a rousing Old English poem of man and monster, narrates the rise and fall of a superhuman hero named Beowulf. It is the interpretation of some readers that he declines markedly through the poem. This essay will explore that point of view.

In Beowulf, the main character, a Geat warrior named Beowulf, 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 say that he has the strength of 30 men in his hand grip.” Beowulf chooses to fight Grendel by himself and without shield or weapons; previously the hero slew nine sea monsters with his sword. And he is fully willing to sacrifice his very life for this: “… I alone will fulfill the wish of your people … or die in the foe’s grasp.” Beowulf consciously chooses to act in a superhuman manner: “I shall perform the deeds of a hero or I have passed my last day in this mead hall.” Even Grendel recognizes the hero’s superior strength: “The criminal knew he had not met in this middle-earth another with such a grip.” Other warriors when thinking of Beowulf “would quickly compose a skillful tale in words.” Hrothgar refers to Beowulf as “the best of warriors.”  The Danish queen Wealhtheow compliments after Grendel’s defeat, “You have earned forever the praise of men from near and far.” Hrothgar expounds on good warriors: “This is the best-born man – my friend Beowulf … the best of warriors.” When the dragon burns the mead hall of the Geats and Beowulf prepares to retaliate, he “scorned a host, a...


... middle of paper ...


...hat time he is sorely lacking in a strong faith in God, which was the cause of his earlier successes, besides his extraodinary strength. Weakened by this lack and by an avaricious atitude, he fails not only against the dragon but also morally.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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.

Goldsmith, Margaret E.. “The Corruption of Beowulf.” In Readings on Beowulf, edited by Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,1998.

Shippey, T.A.. “The World of the Poem.” In Beowulf – Modern Critical Interpretations, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.

Thompson, Stephen P, editor. Readings on Beowulf. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,1998.

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