Beowulf’s Quotes about Heroism: Balancing Pride and Modesty

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Updated: Aug 29, 2023
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Flaw of Excessive Pride: A Tragic Undertone:

There is an idea that Beowulf has a flaw of rather excessive pride and is informed that he has this problem, yet he still fails to recognize and fix this fault by the end of the poem. He had no need to fight the final battle, but he did it anyway because of his pride. It can be argued that the only reason Beowulf can be successful is his constant modesty. He never fails to credit God for his victories and truly embodies true Christian behavior.

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In the context of the story, if

Pride as a Precursor to Failure: Lessons from Hrothgar’s Warning:

Beowulf was to become proud, he would have failed. It seems that Beowulf’s success is only possible because of his utter lack of pride. To Beowulf, pride will inevitably lead to death. Upon his first arrival in the kingdom of Hrothgar, Hrothgar warns him of men who become too proud and attempt to fight Grendel. Hrothgar states, “How many times have my men…sworn to stay after dark and stem that horror with a sweep of their swords.” Those men get drunk and swear they will defeat Grendel, and we see that pride forces them to do what they said they would, which is to fight Grendel. People fail because of pride. However, Beowulf does not become proud so he can succeed.

Conceit and Glory. Beowulf’s Paradoxical Nature:

Another argument that can be made is that despite his reputation of heroism throughout the poem, he can often portray a conceited nature in his search for glory by failing to give credit to those who aid him in his many battles. Beowulf states, “No one else could do what I mean to here. No man but me could hope to defeat this monster. It seems as though Beowulf is putting himself above others in an attempt to bring a more profound glory to his name. The hero even watched one of his own men die because he wanted to gain deeper insight into Grendel, only to eventually fight the monster himself and claim the glory. Beowulf also states, “But I will fight again, seek fame still if the dragon hiding in his tower dares to face me.” This shows that although Beowulf is, without a doubt, a great soldier, he mentally puts his reputation above all else when fighting the dragon and tries to make himself out to be an almighty warrior. Maybe Beowulf is trying to fill the shoes of his father. After all, Beowulf did say, “My father was a famous soldier, known far and wide as a leader of men. His name was Edgetho. His life lasted many winters; wise men all over the earth surely remember him still.” Beowulf also comes off as very cocky in his speech to Hrothgar. This could be an attempt to land the role of slaying Grendel, and his cockiness has no justification. In the speech, Beowulf talks about “dripping with my enemies’ blood”  and “I alone, with the help of my men, Purge all.


  1. Beowulf: A New Translation by Seamus Heaney
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Beowulf's Quotes about Heroism: Balancing Pride and Modesty. (2023, Aug 29). Retrieved from