Beowulf Character Analysis

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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Beowulf Character Analysis

This essay will provide a comprehensive character analysis of Beowulf, the protagonist of the Old English epic poem. It will examine Beowulf’s heroic qualities, such as his strength, courage, and sense of duty, and how they are portrayed throughout his battles with Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. The piece will also explore Beowulf’s leadership and his evolution from a young warrior to an old king, discussing how these stages in his life reflect the values and ideals of Anglo-Saxon culture. Additionally, it will touch upon the themes of heroism, honor, and mortality in the poem, and how Beowulf embodies these concepts. PapersOwl offers a variety of free essay examples on the topic of Analysis.

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In the legendary poem “Beowulf”, which was produced anonymously by an Anglo-Saxon poet, Beowulf is the great warrior of the Geats. Beowulf comes to the aid of Hrothgar who is the king of the Danes because Herot is being attacked by the great monster, Grendel. In short, Beowulf kills Grendel with his bare hands by ripping off his arm and his mother by sword. On the surface, one can interpret the poem as a great entertainer. Much like popular works of literature today that are immensely entertaining yet lack true substance and, in turn, can easily be mistaken as that kind of literature if not approached from an analytic point of view.

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However, when taking a closer look, one can see many different perspectives or opinions the author may have been trying to express to the reader. It is hard to say without knowing the slightest amount of true background information about the author, but one can say that the character of Beowulf represents more than just a hero who slays a monster. In finding what the true representation of Beowulf may be, one may also find the author trying to show that one can be consumed in a quest to be great or as great, a man as Beowulf was in the poem.

Beowulf is a strong, loyal, courageous man. He shows this time and time again, and when Beowulf is acknowledged by another character, one can see how highly regarded he is. In many ways, it is as if the author is trying to portray what a man of that time should be and represent: brave, loyal, and for king and people. When the son of Halfdane noted.

A protector of his people, pledged to uphold truth and justice and to respect tradition, is entitled to affirm that this man was born to distinction. Beowulf, my friend, your fame has gone far and wide, you are known everywhere. In all things you are even-tempered, prudent and resolute. So, I stand firm by the promise of friendship we exchanged before. Forever you will be your people’s mainstay and your own warriors’ helping hand. (Beowulf 77)

This quote from Beowulf is a special testament to his character, influence and what he stands for. When he talks about Beowulf being even-tempered, prudent and resolute, one can tell the kind of man Beowulf is seen as in the story and supposed to be interpreted as by the reader. To be prudent in a time such as the Middle Ages when men were often short sighted or myopic is an important note to make about who Beowulf was. A leader who is resolute in that time was also rare because often kings and other royalty of the Middle Ages were self-centered and did not have a greater purpose. They may have often said they were for the people or served a greater purpose, but often their actions showed the exact opposite. As this is the truth about men of that time, one can see how superior and genuinely good Beowulf was because it was not by his own account, but the testimony of others that allows us to have such an insight into his character. One can interpret this as the author conveying what a true man should look like during this time.

Along with Beowulf’s representation of what a man should be at that time, also comes a lesson to not lose one’s self in the quest of being what a man should be. Often, when trying to become something bigger and better, people can end up losing themselves, especially after accomplishing a lot. The author can be taking Beowulf’s experiences and accomplishments and personality and using them as an example of not giving in to human nature and flesh by becoming arrogant in success. A quote that supports this is,

“… and because of good things that the Heavenly Powers gave him in the past he ignored the shape of things to come. Then finally the end arrives when the body he was lent collapses and falls prey to its death; ancestral possessions and the goods he hoarded are inherited by another who lets them go by a liberal hand. O flower of warriors, beware of that trap. Choose, dear Beowulf, the better part, eternal rewards. Do not give way to pride.” (Beowulf 78)

Once Beowulf has solidified himself as a great warrior and loyal man of the people, the Beowulf is briefly given advice on what he should avoid. Since she has become such a great warrior and leader, he is told not to let that swallow him up or go to his head. Beowulf is warned not to let his pride go to his head because that can be a destroyer of men and one can see the real life lesson in that and in analyzing Beowulf as a character.

In death, many things that are of great importance during one’s life may mean absolutely nothing and those that one think may never do no harm and are the most loyal may be the first to turn their backs. One can see this in a couple of different ways after Beowulf passes. In saying, “The treasure had been won, bought and paid for by Beowulf’s death. Both had reached the end of the road through the life they had been lent. … When he needed them most, they had made off. Now they were ashamed and came behind shields, in their battle outfits to where the old man lay” (Beowulf 100). One can see the sadness in death and in a way why Beowulf was warned earlier about what not to become. After Beowulf passes, when the reader os looking at the character of Beowulf and what he may represent one can see the lesson in his death. In seeing this through Beowulf’s death, the author could be making a point that Beowulf represented more than a man with a sword but also a figure of what a man should be and how even in death, a great man can still be done unjustly.

To Conclude, Beowulf was a great man and warrior, loyal to his people and to what he believed in. When analyzing him one can see, what a man of that time was expected to live up to and to represent. Strength, morality, loyalty and honor can be gathered as the expected foundation of a man, but also one can see that on the quest to be those qualities it is important for one to not to give into the flesh of human nature because one can lose himself more than ever in that one mistake. In learning this one can find the true menande of the great Beowulf, Warrior and king of the geats.

Work Cited

“Beowulf.” The Norton Anthology English Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt., General Editor. 9th ed. W.W Norton & company, 1962, pp. 41-106.       

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Beowulf Character Analysis. (2021, Apr 15). Retrieved from