British Literature Beowulf Character Analysis Beowulf Beowulf is an epic poem set in Scandinavia during the sixth century. This epic was originally handed down through generations in spoken form by traveling minstrels. It was finally put in writing during the eleventh century.
The poem reflects the culture of the time and the Anglo Saxon era. Beowulf is well known in Great Britain as a hero and great warrior. Beowulf exemplifies the traits of the Anglo-Saxon warrior code which include courage, confidence, and pride. Beowulf is a very courageous character and recounts his acts of courage to every person who will listen.
In the poem Beowulf tells of his previous courageous actions in destroying a tribe of giants, defeating sea monsters in the night and returning from battle covered in his enemies blood. Beowulf has come to King Hrothgar to fight an ogre. A monster that has brought misery and death to the Danes for many years. This ogre, Grendel, killed thirty of Hrothgar’s men and caused the great mead hall of Herot to be closed. Beowulf tells King Hrothgar “the monster’s scorn of men Is so great that he needs no weapons and fears none.
Nor will I” (lines 262-264) Therefore Beowulf intends to fight the Grendel without his armor or his sword. Beowulf may be so courageous because he believes so strongly in fate shaping his successes in the past. Beowulf believes that if it is his fate to win against Grendel then he will win. If it is his fate to die during the fight then that is just as God plans it to be. He tells the King that “my hands Alone shall fight for me, struggle for life Against the monster. God must decide Who will be given to death’s cold grip”(lines. 267-269). Beowulf will accept death if it is his fate. Beowulf does fight Grendel and wins.
Then Beowulf must fight Grendel’s mother who is seeking revenge for her son’s death. These battles are described in detail as brutal and savage. Beowulf kills both monsters despite their strength and demonic powers. When Beowulf returns to the king holding Grendel’s head as a trophy his courage awes everyone in attendance. Beowulf is very confident in his ability to defeat anyone or anything he fights. His great physical strength and enormous size contribute to his being seen as a confident warrior. His recounting of his success in previous battles reinforce the attribute of confidence.
The description of his going into battle with Grendel and then with the vengeful mother reflects his confidence in battle. Even as Beowulf enters into old age he ‘utters his final boast: “I’ve never know fear, as a youth I fought In endless battles, I am old now, But I will fight again” ’(lines 622-626). He intends to fight a dragon even in his old age without fear because fate will decide the outcome. He tells his followers “no man but me Could hope to defeat this monster. No one Could try” (lines 645-647). In his confidence he explains that no one is as strong and courageous as himself.
Then he enters the dragon’s lair and “lowered His sword and roared out a battle cry, A call so loud and clear that it reached through the hoary rock, hung in the dragon‘s Ear”(lines 662-666). Beowulf is warning the dragon that he is about to face a fierce battle to the death. The character of Beowulf is also very prideful. Throughout the epic Beowulf’s pride in himself is evident. He boasts of his background and success in battles. When Beowulf enters the port belonging to King Hrothgar the sentry questions his purpose. Beowulf then goes into his history saying “My father Was a famous soldier, known far and wide as a leader of men.
His name was Edgetho…Wise men all over the earth surely Remember him still” (lines 174-179). He wants men to know that he is the son of someone famous. Then when he greets King Hrothgar he informs him that “the days Of my youth have been filled with glory” (lines 237-238). He boasts of his glorious successes of youth. He goes on to say “My people have said, the wisest, most knowing, And best of them, that my duty was to go to the Danes’ Great king. They have seen my strength for themselves, Have watched me rise from the darkness of war, Dripping, with my enemies’ blood…”(lines 244-246).
He recounts his success in battle against giants and hunting monsters in the ocean. He tells the king “Now Grendel and I are called Together, and I’ve come” (lines 254-255). He is saying that his own people know that only he can defeat such an enemy and that it is fate that brings him to battle Grendel. His pride caused him to display trophies such as Grendel’s torn arm which he hung high for everyone to see. Then he presented the head of Grendel’s mother to the king. Later in life Beowulf’s last battle is against a dragon.
The pride of Beowulf made it necessary for him to explain why he had to use weapons to kill the dragon rather than killing it with his bare hands. He explains to his men “I’d use no sword, no weapon, if this beast Could be killed without it, crushed to death like Grendel, gripped in my hands and torn Limb form limb. But his breath will be burning Hot, poison will pour from his tongue” (lines 630-634). Beowulf wants his men to know that if he could kill the dragon without weapons he would. He then tells them “No one else could do What I mean to, here, no man but me Could hope to defeat this monster, No one Could try” (lines 644-647).
Beowulf is the shining example of what it is to be an Anglo Saxon warrior. He is everything that a hero should be. He is courageous going into battle and during battle. His character battles the worst enemies in the most brutal conflicts. He is confident that he can defeat men and monsters. He is proud of his heritage and his accomplishments in battle. He boasts about previously won battles and must display trophies of current defeats. He dies as a hero should die in a battle with a dangerous enemy.