Many works of literature often leave multiple interpretations. In this case, the epic poem Beowulf would be an example of a literary work that has left various interpretations for the readers. In Burton Raffel’s translation of the poem, the final line states Beowulf as “deserving of praise”. However, in other translations, the final line states Beowulf as desiring of praise. Although these are two differing characterizations of Beowulf, they also reveal the aspects and interpretations of the title hero.
The best characterization of Beowulf would be that he is deserving of praise. Beowulf is deserving of praise because he is loyal, courageous, and ethical. Beowulf is deserving of praise because his many actions were the result of his loyalty. In the beginning of the poem, King Hrothgar’s mead hall, Herot, suffered from the attacks of Grendel every night. Upon hearing the news of this disturbance, Beowulf travels to Denmark with his fellow soldiers with the intent of killing Grendel and ending King Hrothgar’s misery.
Finally in the presence of King Hrothgar, Beowulf courageously states, “Now Grendel and I are called together, and I’ve come, Grant me, then, lord and protector of this noble place, a single request! ” Lines 425-428). However, it was indirectly implied that Beowulf came to the rescue of King Hrothgar because Hrothgar had many years ago saved Beowulf’s father, Edgetho, by giving him shelter. As a result, Beowulf felt obliged to repay his father’s debt by helping Hrothgar slay Grendel. This noble action of Beowulf is why he is deserving of praise.
Another reason why Beowulf is deserving of praise is because he is courageous. Towards the end of the poem, Beowulf is said to have been ruling Geatland wisely for over fifty years. However, one day, he is faced with the dilemma of dealing with a dragon that has been terrorizing Geatland. Despite his old age, Beowulf wears his armor and marches out with eleven of his best men to fight the dragon without any further hesitation. Although Beowulf is seen losing against the battle with the dragon, he receives help from Wiglaf, and together, they successfully slay the dragon. “Beowulf drew his battle-sharp dagger….. uickly, he cut the beast in half, slit it apart. ” (Lines 2702-2705). Beowulf’s action of courageously leading a group of men despite his old age is why he is deserving of praise. Last but not least, Beowulf is deserving of praise because of his sense in dealing with ethnical matters. In one part of the poem, the ruler of Geatland, King Higlac, dies. Not trusting the abilities of her son, Herdred, in warding off the foreign invaders, Queen Hygd offers the crown to Beowulf. Beowulf, however, refuses to take Herdred’s crown, with the reason being that “……his lord’s own son was alive…” (Line 2373).
Beowulf instead offered the young king wisdom as well as moral support. Eventually, Herdred dies and Beowulf is left to take on the throne and become the ruler of Geatland. Beowulf is deserving of praise because he is ethical. Although many translations of the epic poem describe Beowulf as “deserving of praise” or “desiring of praise”, Beowulf is best characterized as deserving of praise. Beowulf is deserving of praise because he is loyal, courageous, and ethnical. Many literary works often leave various interpretations.