Beowulf: The Overly Manly Man
Beowulf, the Overly Manly Man Beowulf a story focused around the life and perils of Beowulf, a manly man, contains masculinity and the three traits that define it, bravery, strength and perseverance. Masculinity, a term that in its literal sense means the possession of manly traits, continually shows itself in Beowulf and defines the main character, Beowulf, “son of Ecgtheow”(quote in a note on names). The culture Beowulf is a part of surrounds itself with the ideals and ways of masculinity. Three masculine traits that stand out in the story and the protagonist Beowulf are, bravery, strength and perseverance.
Beowulf proves himself to be a masculine character early in the story and through many trails and battles in which he comes out victorious. Bravery is one of the key traits of masculinity, and Beowulf showed it throughout the story. In Beowulf’s battle against Grendel, the first of many in the story, he showed his bravery in many different ways. In the begging, Beowulf declares he will fight Grendel in “single combat” (426) and will be a match for him. In the battle, Beowulf’s thanes tried with all their power to kill the mighty Grendel, but “no blade” (802) could damage the beast.
With all else failing, Beowulf stepped in and “pounce[d]” (962) on the vicious beast and took it down with his bare hands. Beowulf showed his undeniable bravery and masculinity in this scene by stepping up and proving he is a powerful warrior. Had it not been for him, his comrades and him would have fallen. Bravery is one of the key traits in masculinity. Beowulf stepped up and took action when no one else would, proving his masculinity. Beowulf showed his unbeatable bravery again in his battle against Grendel’s mother.
Beowulf came to the “point of action” (1475) and without fail presented himself to fight Grendel’s cursed mother. Beowulf proves he is brave and ready to face and endure danger when he goes to the “outlandish lair” (1500) without any idea of what was to come. This act by Beowulf epitomizes what the true definition of bravery is, and shows that Beowulf was willing to step up to the challenge. Strength is another masculine trait that separates a man from a more feminine individual. Strength means power, and Beowulf embodies this masculine attribute throughout the story.
In the Fight against Grendel, Beowulf showed his strength when all of his companion’s weapons had failed and he made the brave choice to fight off foe with his bare hands. Beowulf showed his unmatchable strength when he rips the “Monster’s”(814) “sinews” (816) completely in half and the arm comes off. “Fatally hurt” (819), Grendel retreats and dies. In this part of the story, Beowulf exemplifies strength in the whole story, but in retrospect, no strength compares to this. Beowulf proves he is strong, because although his confidantes had fallen and failed, he conjured his power and defeated one of the most powerful creatures any man had seen.
An individual who expresses strength shows the power to do tasks one might find impossible, and Beowulf showed this throughout most of the story, but mainly in the battle against Grendel. The last quality that exemplifies masculinity is perseverance. Beowulf showed persistence in many of the battles that he had fought in. In the final battle, the battle against the dragon is the battle that Beowulf showed to most perseverance. Beowulf, forced to enter the “fire-breathing dragon[’s]” (2688) lair by himself after his brethren had left him, shows the most masculine perseverance possible when faced by this beast.
Perseverance is the ability to continue a task although is may seem impossible to succeed. Even after the dragon had “clamped sharp fangs”(2691) into Beowulf’s neck, Beowulf was able to get up and finish where he had left off. The typical man would have given up after being injected with deadly poison, but Beowulf “gathered his strength” (2703) and stuck a “stabbing knife” (2703) deep into the dragons “flank” (2703). This scene is the epitome of perseverance and its role in masculinity. Beowulf is such a Masculine character and he proves it through his perseverance, especially in the epic fight against the dragon.
Masculinity and its construction is a complex topic, but using Beowulf as a defining character we can see how he proves to be masculine through bravery, strength, and perseverance. Not all men are masculine and not all women are feminine as proven by Beowulf’s “comrades” (2597) when they abandoned him. Beowulf proves his masculinity early in the story, but following his unmatchable fight against the dragon, it is clear just how masculine Beowulf was, and how he used bravery, strength, and perseverance to be a manly-man. Works Cited Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000. Print.