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Beowulf Essay

August 20th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Characters in fiction and drama are characterized into different categories according to their influence on the plot and their personality. Every character in a poem is unique in their own way. In the poem Beowulf, Beowulf endures many challenges that make his character stand out from the rest. Beowulf is a major character with a dynamic, yet flat personality.

Beowulf is considered the major character because he has the most influence on the plot. He receives the call to Heorot while at home in Geatland when he hears that Grendel is attacking Heorot. Beowulf is considered a hero when he rushes to help the people of Heorot. He sets society for revenge when he tells Hrothgar “It is better for a man to avenge his friend than much mourn.” (1081) When Grendel enters Hrothgar’s home and begins to attack the kinsman of Hygelac. Beowulf shows his heroism when he draws his sword and wounds Grendel in his shoulder making his sinews spring apart and his bone-locks brake. After the killing Beowulf leaves Grendel’s arm in Heorot to represent his victory.

After Beowulf defeats Grendel, Grendel’s mother comes to seek revenge. Grendel’s mother comes into Hrothgar’s home and kills a noble shield warrior named Aeschere. She is able to escape since Beowulf is not there. She cuts off Aeschere’s head and leaves it by the lake just as they did with Grendel’s arm. When Beowulf finds out what happened, he goes to Grendel’s mother’s hall to defend Heorot from her. Before Beowulf left he says, “Think now, renowned son of Healfdene, wise king, now that I am ready for the venture, gold-friend of warriors… If at your need I should go from life, you would always be in a father’s place for me when I am gone: be guardian of my young retainers, my companions, if battle should take me.” (1082) He was showing his heroism by telling the son of Healfdene to take over if he dies in battle. He goes to Grendel’s mother’s hall and begins the battle. “Then he seized by the hair Grendel’s mother—the man of the War-Geats did not shrink from the fight. Battle-hardened, now swollen with rage, he pulled his deadly foe so that she fell to the floor.” (1082) He was very courageous in his fight and succeeded in killing Grendel’s mother. He not only defeated her, but he also made the monsters disappear and the lake dry up.

Beowulf was a dynamic character because he underwent a significant change in his personality as he got older. When he was younger he was considered a slack and very unbold. He grew up despised and the Geat did not reckon him brave. As he got older, his troubles changed him and he became famous. He is now considered brave and a man of good deeds. “His heart was not savage, but he held the great gift that God has given him, the most strength of all mankind, like one brave in battle.” (1091) After the slayings he rises to deified status, this represents a reversal from a despised state to one of renown and kingship.

Beowulf would be described as a flat character because he has very few defined traits and his personality did not change throughout the poem. The only personality trait I saw as his arrogance. He boasts when he tells Hrothgar of his past deeds and that he will take on Grendel without weapons. He begins bragging again before he goes to defeat the dragon. “In my youth I engaged in many wars. Old guardian of the people, I shall still seek battle, perform a deed of fame, if the evil doer will come to me out of the earth-hall.” (1095) Since most of his bragging has claimed true, the people see him as having the strength of thirty men. In the beginning of this poem he started off bragging and in the end he died bragging.

Fifty years after the battle with Grendel’s mother, he would again show his heroism. He would have to face the dragon. The people of Geats were afraid of the dragon and they thought one day the dragon would not leave anything alive. “Then the terror was made known to Beowulf, quickly in its truth, that his own home, best of buildings, had melted in surging flames, the throne seat of the Geats.” (1092) “He had no fear of himself of the combat, nor did he think the worm’s war-power anything great, his strength and his courage, straits, crashes of war after he had purged Hrothgar’s hall, victorious warrior and in combat crushed to death Grendel’s kin, loathsome race.” (1093) Beowulf and his warriors began to plan the battle against the dragon. After giving words of wisdom, they entered the dragon’s lair. A fierce battle took place between the warriors and the dragon, but Beowulf got wounded. He was burned when he went to help his kinsman. The wound began to burn and swell and Beowulf went and sat on a seat near a wall, unfastened his helmet and said, “Now I would wish to give my son my war-clothing, if any heir after me, part of my flesh, were granted. I held this people fifty winters. There was no folk-king of these dwelling about, who dared approach me with swords, threaten me with fears. In my land I awaited what fate brought me, held my own well, sought not treacherous quarrels, nor did I swear many oaths unrightfully. Sick with life-wounds, I may have joy of all this, for the Ruler of Men need not blame me for the slaughter of kinsmen when life goes from my body.” (1098) Beowulf defeated the dragon when he cut the worm through the middle.
They brought Beowulf back to Geats and laid him on his death bead and waited for him to die. The people of Geats made Beowulf a funeral pyre hung with helmets, battle-shields, and bright mail-shirts just as he wanted. Then they laid the prince, lamenting their hero and the warriors began to make a fire. The people built a mound on the promontory that was high and broad. In 10 days, the people completed a monument to remember their hero.

Beowulf is a man whose bravery saved the people of Heorot and Geats. His dynamic, but flat personality made this poem interesting and fun to read. Because of his heroism and bravery it made reading this poem an adventure.

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