Sunday, October 13, 2019

Epic of Beowulf Essay - Noble and Cowardly Behavior :: Epic of Beowulf Essay

Beowulf may serve well as a reflection of the life of Germanic aristocracy of old times. The primary epic, by definition dealing with heroic deeds and extraordinary figures, often uses comparison and contrast to differentiate good qualities and faults and make them more explicit. Throughout the poem we acknowledge the idealisation of Beowulf both as a warrior and a king. The main features which contribute to Beowulf’s greatness are courage, martial skills, honour, responsibility, generosity and pursuit of fame. The mentioning of Scyld, the legendary Danish hero, and of Beowulf the Dane at the beginning of the poem serve as an implicit comparison with the forthcoming Beowulf the Geat. Similarities between the warrior and the heroic predecessors expose Beowulf’s qualities. Beowulf shows respect for king Hrothgar and he discloses his responsibility when asking the king to take care of his men in case of his death in the fight with Grendel. Unlike Unferth the â€Å"peace spoiler†, he hadn’t slain his kinsmen, nor had he boasted about his courage while the plain facts proved the opposite: for if Unferth was so brave, Grendel would not have been alive anymore. The negative image of a retainer which Unferth represents is boosted by the fact that he gave his sword to Beowulf, whereas a virtuous warrior never parts with his sword. An example of an ignoble behaviour is also represented in the shape of the cowardly warriors of king Beowulf’s retinue, who, except for Wiglaf, leave him unattended in the fight with the Dragon. They are a total opposition of the brave hero. As a king, Beowulf resembles wise Hrothgar and Hygelac. Generous to his thanes, he drives his land to prosperity. For his people he sacrifices his life, unlike Heremot, the avaricious former Danish king, who brought â€Å"carnage and death† to his kindred, â€Å"slew his comrades† and fled, and whose reign brought torment to his people. Beowulf shared the fate of heroic Sigemund the dragon-slayer, who gained treasure for his subordinates but whose life had a bitter end.

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