Beowulf- Epic Hero
Epics exhibit qualities that make them distinct when compared to other genres of literature. Beowulf exhibits characteristics that allows the piece of literature to remain an epic of great proportions. The poem exhibits the epic characteristics of supernatural force, superhuman courage, and the hero is a figure of great national importance. Beowulf meets the requirements for an epic poem through the exhibition of supernatural force. In the poem, the power of God is sometimes present; meaning that God intervenes with an action or outcome of one of the characters or battles in the epic.
In Beowulf, an outside or supernatural force is involved in one of the actions within the poem. In lines 1545-1555, God intervenes when he saved the doomed Beowulf from death by allowing his chain-mail to work properly and strongly. Without the help of God, Beowulf would have perished but it was God whom had decided the victory against Grendel’s mother. The interference of an outside for or God is known as, Deus ex Machina; is Latin which translates to “God in machine. ” Along with supernatural involvement there are two other epics qualities that help to make Beowulf part of the epic genre.
The main character in the epic poem, Beowulf, exhibits quality of superhuman courage as well as other epic qualities which helps to make Beowulf part of the epic genre. Beowulf exhibits great courage in his battles with Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the Dragon. Just as any other epic character, Beowulf too fulfills the role of being courageous. Beowulf took on two of the most hated and feared monsters, Grendel and his mother. In Beowulf’s final battle, he knew that it would be his last and that death was inevitable.
He went on anyways and defeated the once undefeatable Dragon. Beowulf knew that he was “superhuman” and had immense strength as well as courage which helped him to defeat three of the most feared creatures at the time. He can be seen as the epitome of an epic character, helping to characterize Beowulf as an epic. Another epic characteristic that helps to characterize Beowulf as an epic is that the hero of the poem is one of great national importance. Beowulf was one of the most known people in the land of the Geats. The heroic and epic ctions that he performed made him well known and almost a figure of his nation. When Beowulf traveled to the land of the Danes he was already known by Unferth and other people. Stories spread of his swimming race with Brecca that almost left him dead as he fought off nine sea beasts. Beowulf gained more fame when he killed Grendel and his mother; led him to become king for fifty years. His last and final act which characterized him as a man of importance was when he killed the Dragon. Beowulf led a life of fame, through which he gained by acts of heroism.
This epic quality furthers the argument on characterizing Beowulf as an epic. Characteristics of an epic allow them to be different from that of another piece of literature. The character Beowulf as well as points within the poem allow Beowulf to be characterized as an epic. The poem itself exhibits qualities of supernatural force, superhuman courage, and the hero is a figure of great national importance. All of these characteristics allow for Beowulf to be named an epic, an epic that will be read for generations to come.