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A Comparison Of Unferth's Cowardice And Beowulf's Valiance Eng4 U Character Essay

864 words - 4 pages

Unferth is the foil to Beowulf; opposite him in every way. Beowulf has themes from the Biblical story of Cain and Abel running through it. Unferth parallels Cain as he has killed his brother and his envious. In Hrothgar’s court Unferth plays the role of social taunter. He attempts to point out Beowulf’s flaws using his wit. In Beowulf, Unferth forces the reader to further appreciate Beowulf’s bravery and status as a true hero.
Unferth is the only character in Hrothgar's court who doesn’t welcome Beowulf and his men with respect and warmth. He doesn’t believe that Beowulf is a warrior able to rescue them. According to him, Beowulf has many flaws and Unferth isn’t afraid to attempt to point them out to the Danes. While partially drunk, Unferth twists Beowulf’s story, making Beowulf look like a fool. In Beowulf and Brecca’s youth and pride, they tried to out show each other in a swimming contest. Beowulf ignored his elders and agreed to this stupid competition. Unferth calls him a proud fool. He’s saying it’s obvious that Beowulf won’t be able to defeat Grendel (Bloomfield). It’s important for someone to point out Beowulf’s flaws as the people are completely infatuated with him. The Danes need to be more removed from the situation. The problem with Unferth, however, is he’s fabricating lies and undermining Beowulf rather than revealing the truth. Scandinavian warriors of that time were supposed to accomplish their own mighty deeds, not criticize and downplay others’ heroic efforts (Shmoop). Boasting is acceptable, but “Unferth’s harsh words show that it ought not to be bitter or disparaging of others” (SparkNotes). Unferth is showing his pride and resentment, not heroism (SparkNotes). His main motivation is not concern for the Danes, but rather jealousy.
Unferth’s envy reminds the readers of Cain. Cain, driven by jealousy, killed his brother Abel. The scop mentions that Unferth murdered his brothers, “his own close kin” (586-587). Although the exact circumstances are not revealed, a parallel to Cain can be drawn here. Unferth is angered “that anyone in Denmark or anywhere on earth had ever acquired glory and fame greater than his own” (502-505). The only reason Unferth is famous is because he killed his brothers. He is no hero. In his opinion, Beowulf has not accomplished anything great. There is no reason for him to be so famous. He wants to undermine Beowulf by twisting his story. He wants the fame that Beowulf has earned for himself. He is jealous of the attention Beowulf is receiving (SparkNotes). The same...

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