Beowulf: The Imperfection Of Man Essay

1003 words - 4 pages

The story of Beowulf is incontrovertibly a story of greatness. There was a time when no man was superior to this awesome man. Beowulf led a remarkable life, one that was polarized between his early years of prosperity and virtue and his later years of prosperity, virtue, and downfall.
     Beowulf was a human hero in his prime years. The younger days of Beowulf are marked by chivalrous bravery, unmatched strength, and a tendency toward goodwill: undoubtedly the characteristics of a champion. He seems almost godlike in his laudable feats as he tells of his swimming match versus Breca, where he toiled against the waves for seven nights. He battles the fearsome Grendel and defeats him soundly with his bare hands. These deeds seem worthy to be designated superhuman, but this would be a misnomer. Beowulf is merely a man and risked his corporeal life to benefit others. Nobody asked him to expel Grendel from the land of the Danes; he came and did it on his own accord. Although Beowulf did receive rewards in for his heroic services, it is apparent that these rewards offered by Hrothgar are only secondary to the good Beowulf brought in his campaign to “cleanse Hart-Hall.” He didn’t need to ask for reward because Hrothgar was so eternally grateful that he wasn’t very sure how to thank him. No rewards were expected, but they were offered as an attempt to reimburse Beowulf. The great hero did not accomplish feats for material reward, but it can be argued that he did great things to build up his own reputation, which was of great importance to this era. After all, it was hardly necessary that he fight Grendel empty-handed; weapons were abundant in these martial times. Nonetheless, it would be superficial to see this extra hardship added on purely as a status-booster. It is true that future generations will likely talk about this event with awe of the great hero, but the real reason he did this was to demonstrate the capability of men. Grendel was greatly feared by all men, who told stories of his ferocity and terribleness, and he even spurned all weapons. Thus, Beowulf, as a human warrior, will fight on the same playing field with no advantages to show that Grendel is not some terrible beast to be feared; he can be defeated on his own terms by a human. This inspiration of confidence to others marks definitely marks Beowulf as a superb leader, adding to his heroism. As icing on the cake, Beowulf even sticks around to defeat Grendel’s mother and finish the job. In response, Hrothgar delivers a speech in which he bestows upon Beowulf some learned advice: stay humble and do not forget fate, or pride will be the ultimate downfall. Beowulf is riding on the benefits of prosperity
     Unfortunately, there is the Old English phrase ‘lif bith lene,’ or ‘life is transitory. Fifty years later, Beowulf is back...

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