The Difference between a Good Warrior and a Good King in Beowulf

Category: Literature
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There are multiple themes in Beowulf, but the one I will be discussing is The Difference Between a Good Warrior and a Good King.
Over the course of Beowulf. He becomes a wise leader and king through his many victories in battle. This transition he goes through demonstrates the different sets of values in each of his two roles.

This differences manifest themselves early with the different outlooks Beowulf and King Hrothgar have. Beowulf is youthful with nothing to lose, who also has a desire for personal glory. Hrothgar is older with a lot to lose, who seeks out the protection of his people before himself. Beowulf is seen in this light as arrogant where Hrothgar is seen as caring. Their outlooks on many situations end up clashing because of their individual values. While the values of a warrior become clearer with Beowulf’s example throughout, but only in the poem’s more slower-paced moments are the responsibilities of a king to his people discussed.

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The heroic code requires that a king reward the service of his warriors with gifts and praise. All that is said is that he must provide them with protection in an extravagant mead-hall. Hrothgar’s speech stress the value of creating stability in a uncertain and chaotic world. He also speaks about the king’s role in diplomacy, both with his warriors and with other tribes.

Beowulf’s own position as king exaggerates many of the same points. His transition from warrior to king, and though in his final battle with the dragon this causes a clash between the duties of a heroic warrior and those of a heroic king. In the eyes of his fellow warriors and subjects, Beowulf’s bold encounter with the dragon is unclear because it places them to a kingless state, which causes them to remain vulnerable to attack by their enemies. Yet Beowulf also demonstrates a restraint that is proper to kings when, earlier in his life, he stops himself from taking Hygelac’s throne, choosing instead to keep the line of succession in tact by supporting the appointment of Hygelac’s son. Though since all of the pagan kings were great warriors in their younger years, the tension between these two important roles seems unavoidable and conflicting.

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The Difference Between a Good Warrior and a Good King in Beowulf. (2019, Feb 16). Retrieved from