Beowulf Character Analysis

Beowulf Character Analysis

At the beginning of the story Beowulf the character Beowulf was a strong, brave, and powerful hero originating from Geat. Upon coming to the Danes, Beowulf shows courage and his need for a challenge in his fortitude to help rid them of Grendel. He was already a famous young hero who had accomplished much to this point in his life but handles himself with great composure, especially when dealing with Unferth. It is also possible to see Beowulf as a just person who has much wisdom for his age due to his decision to fight Grendel with only his hands as Grendel will not have a weapon during the battle.

As the story develops certain characteristics begin to emerge in Beowulf, in particular, his overconfidence and feelings of invincibility after having slain Grendel. After slaying Grendel and then Grendel’s mother Beowulf returns to Geatland where he is eventually made king and rules for many years. At this point we see true characteristics begin to develop even more fully in Beowulf as he matures. Rather than stealing the throne from Headred after King Hygelac dies Beowulf shows his loyalty to his family and the Geats and only takes the throne after Headred is killed in battle.

Throughout his reign, Beowulf protects the Geats from all neighboring civilizations and ensures the safety of his people. Once the dragon is disturbed, Beowulf again battles to protect his people, which is ultimately what causes his death. This sacrifice and selflessness shows more how Beowulf developed into a great king and true hero. The purpose of this character analysis is to explore the development of the character of Beowulf throughout the story and how these characteristics developed over time through his experiences.

Upon first being introduced to the character Beowulf it is already clear that he is a courageous warrior who enjoys being challenged in order to challenge his perceived invincibility. Despite his fame and all the praise he constantly received, Beowulf still remained composed, well spoken, and mature for his young age. Having accomplished much had undoubtedly brought people who were jealous of him, such as Unferth. Through Beowulf’s calm interaction and how he handled the situation with Unferth we can see the maturity of Beowulf at such a young age.

Even in preparing for battle with Grendel, Beowulf wants to be fair to Grendel and therefore, decides against using a weapon when fighting Grendel. “Behavior that’s admired is the path to power among people everywhere” (1087/25) After killing Grendel and Grendel’s mother Beowulf returns to Geat where he is presented with an opportunity to steal the throne from Headread but does not do this due to his loyalty, in particular to his uncle. Eventually, Beowulf does become king of the Geats due to the death of Headred in battle.

After showing great courage and loyalty in battle he patiently waited his turn for the throne. Waiting for his chance to get the seat showed great character as well. He could have taken the seat without much fuss. “I risked my life often when I was young. Now I am old, but as king of the people I shall pursue this fight for the glory of winning, if the evil one will only abandon his earth fort and face me in the open” Pg 1139/2510 He rules the Geats for 50 years and is able to keep all enemies at bay and protect his people making him a good ruler and protector of his people.

A 50 year rule is something that you don’t really see that often in this time frame. Average life expectancy in that time was around 45 years so you can imagine that his stature and physical health was amazing. The dragon, Beowulf sacrificed his life in order to protect his people and neighboring villages that the dragon was destroying. This is the biggest character development because we see Beowulf as doing this courageous act for others and not for glory as he may have done in the past.

After the Battle with Grendal’s Mother is when you start to see a change in his “attitude” and an overall shift in his thinking. This is seen in the way he leads when he finally becomes the king. His people were the number 1 concern to him and no longer sought out epic feats to prove his courage and prowess. “Behavior that’s admired is the path to power among people everywhere” (1087/25) In Conclusion looking into the character of Beowulf was the most interesting to me because of how his character develops so far in his life.

He really moves so far from a young warrior up to king of a powerful nation. There is a reason why this story has transcribed across the centuries and still can ring through to people in our day and age. Sources: Bierhorst J, Danly R, et al. “Beowulf. ” The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 1; (2009) 1080-1152. Bloomfield M. “Beowulf” and Christian Allegory: An Interpretation of Unferth. Traditio. (1951) 7; 410-415.