Beowulf Was Not an Epic Hero
In an epic the hero is on a journey to accomplish one thing and winds up learning about himself or actually accomplishes something quite different from the original goal. In actuality, Beowulf is basically a hit man looking for glory. He comes to save the people from Grendel, not because he gives a hoot for the people but because he wants glory. Do you mean tragic hero? He’s not a tragic hero because he gets punished for something that is absolutely his own fault and he knows it – he goes after the dragon’s hoard, the dragon kills him.
A tragic hero is destroyed by something he did unknowingly, not realizing that he has been mistaken all along. I’m trying to use the idea that Beowulf has a flaw of excessive pride, is informed that he has this problem, but fails to fix his fault by the end of the poem. He did not need to fight the final battle but did so because of his pride. The only reason Beowulf can be successful is his constant modesty. He attributes all of his victories to God, embodying ideal Christian behavior. In the context of the story if Beowulf had become proud he would have failed.
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Beowulf’s success is only possible because of his lack of pride. In Beowulf’s world, pride will only lead to death. When Beowulf first arrives in Hrothgar’s kingdom, Hrothgar warns him about what happens to men who become too proud and attempt to fight Grendel. Hrothgar says, “how many times have my men…sworn to stay after dark/ and stem that horror with a sweep of their swords (480-6). Those men get drunk and swear they will defeat Grendel, and pride forces them to do what they said they would: fight Grendel. No one has ever succeeded because they are too proud. However, Beowulf does not become proud, and so he can succeed.