Beowulf – A Traumatic and Germanic Hero

Beowulf – A Traumatic and Germanic Hero

A Germanic heroic, as described by Dr. Wagner, consist of 5 traits. The 5 traits are: they must have a king, the followers were loyal and known as his comitatus, they were rewarded with the spoils of battle, they must be loyal to fight to death, and it was sacred duty to kill whomever killed the king. Beowulf met all of these characteristics and is considered a Germanic hero.

However, similar to Aristotle’s tragic hero, Beowulf does display the flaws of hamartia and hubris. Hubris, as defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is “excessive pride or self-confidence. We see Beowulf display this characteristic many times throughout the story of “Beowulf. ” At line 1442-43, as Beowulf is getting ready for a battle, we see him begin to display hubris. The book states, “Beowulf got ready, donned his war-gear, indifferent to death; his mighty, hand-forged, fine-webbed mail would soon meet with the menace underwater. The section of this quote that states that Beowulf was “indifferent to death,” is hubris. Beowulf was not worried about dying during this battle.

He was confident that death was not an option during this battle. His “indifference” towards death displays his self-pride and helps to prove his hubris. We see Beowulf’s hubris again in lines 2345-46. These lines state that, “Yet the prince of rings was too proud to line up with a large army. ” Beowulf being the prince of rings, this quote directly stated that Beowulf was “too proud” to fight along side other people. This quote again displays Beowulf’s hubris by him being ultimately “too proud” for someone else’s help.

Pride is one of the key characteristics of hubris. Hamartia, as described by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is a “fatal flaw leading to the downfall of a tragic hero. ” Beowulf’s fatal flaw is his hubris, which ends up leading him to a downfall. His downfall in “Beowulf” is his death at the end of the epic poem. Beowulf goes into the final fight with the dragon knowing he is going to die. This death is most definitely something that could have been avoided. Beowulf’s hubris takes over before this final battle.

Beowulf wanted to fight this dragon alone, knowing he was the only one who could defeat it. At this point in the epic poem, Beowulf is the king and undoubtedly could’ve have gathered an army to defeat this dragon. Instead his hubris and pride decided that it would rather fight the dragon alone. Beowulf was feared as a king and as a warrior. His nation thrived for fifty years under his rule and could have thrived for fifty more years if the overconfident king was willing to swallow his pride. Ironically his self-confidence (hubris) is what leads to his hamartia.

One would imagine at Beowulf’s old age, his maturity and his greater responsibility of ruling a nation, would have overpowered his hubris prior to this battle. However, this does not occur and the great Beowulf ends up dying in his final battle with this dragon. Beowulf’s death is what becomes his ultimate downfall (hamartia). Beowulf fits the 5 characteristics of a Germanic hero. He also displays the two characteristics of Aristotle’s tragic hero, hubris and hamartia. All through out the epic poem “Beowulf,” Beowulf displays hubris. Beowulf has no lack of confidence.

This trait of hubris definitely has its pros and cons. With this sense of self-pride, Beowulf is able to defeat everyone and anything he faces in battle. However at the end of this epic poem, his hubris is what ultimately leads to his death. His death is what is considered his hamartia, his ultimate downfall. His over-confidence gets him killed and leaves his nation kingless. In a sense, this battle was selfish and could have been avoided. At the end of the day, Beowulf is a Germanic hero and a great warrior who unfortunately displays hubris, which leads to his hamartia.