A close reading of Beowulf and the contradictions made within the text

1027 WordsNov 14, 20045 Pages
The epic poem Beowulf contains contradictions about the heroic character of the protagonist Beowulf. Two certain passages in Beowulf, one at the beginning of the text and one near the end, offer evidence of inconsistencies within Beowulf 's character. We must ask one question of the poem 's protagonist: Is he really the hero he claims to be? Certain aspects of Beowulf 's integrity, mainly his lies about people 's perceptions of him, contradict the conventional classification of a hero. The legend of Beowulf begins with King Hrothgar, who is in a dilemma because Grendel, an evil monster, has been unremittingly attacking Heorot for twelve years. Beowulf, a warrior and thane of the Geat King Hygelac, hears of this and decides that he must go…show more content…
Evidence of the true sentiments toward Beowulf from his kin can be seen when the poet writes "he had been poorly regarded for a long time, was taken by the Geats for less than he was worth: and their lord too had never much esteemed him in the mead-hall"(2183-2186). This sentence explains that Beowulf was not held in such high esteem as he would have liked. His decision to go to Heorot is an attempt to assert his worth to his family and people because they "firmly believed he lacked force, that the prince was a weakling [...]"(2187-88). Beowulf, who holds Hygelac in high regard, wants to defeat Grendel to make Hygelac proud. If Beowulf is a weakling, how is it that he was the only one able to fight and defeat the indestructible Grendel? Beowulf somehow knows that it is his destiny to defeat Grendel, which may be the true reason for "abruptly" deciding to travel to Heorot. For twelve years, no one in Heorot could stop Grendel. They tried time and again to kill him by using any kind of weaponry they could forge. How is it that a newly arrived foreigner defeat Grendel without any armor or weapons? It must be because God had helped the "hero." This is apparent in Beowulf 's many references to God: "Whichever one death fells must deem it a just judgment by God" (440-41) and "the Geat placed complete trust in his strength of limb in the Lord 's favor" (669-670). The Oxford English dictionary defines a hero as "a man distinguished by extraordinary valour and

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