Essay on Does the Hero Decline in the Epic of Beowulf?

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Does the Hero Decline in Beowulf?

Beowulf, a rousing Old English poem of man and monster, narrates the rise and fall of a superhuman hero named Beowulf. It is the interpretation of some readers that he declines markedly through the poem. This essay will explore that point of view.

In Beowulf, the main character, a Geat warrior named Beowulf, possesses extraordinary qualities: “He was the strongest of men alive in that day, mighty and noble.” Upon spotting Beowulf approaching, the sea-guard of the Danes says, “Never have I seen a greater man on earth…” King Hrothgar of the Danes says of Beowulf, “Seafarers who took gifts to the Geats say that he has the strength of 30 men in his hand grip.” Beowulf chooses to fight
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Beowulf’s example of extreme heroism motivates others to extraordinary deeds: Wiglaf, seeing Beowulf’s strength compromised by the dragon’s fire, risks his life to aid Beowulf in his final battle. It is obvious that the hero possesses superhuman qualities. As critic Donald fry states in TheBeowulf Poet: “Beowulf is … one set aprt from ordinary men by his size, nobility, and splendid appearance” (Fry 3).

But does this super-hero decline toward the end? Or is his behavior admirable till the end? The final lines of the poem is a logical place to begin consideration of this question:

They said that he was, of the kings of this world,

the kindest to his men, the most courteous man,

the best to his people, and the most eager for fame (3180-82).

It seems that the final word of the poem, “lofgeornost,” which translates “most eger for praise,” leaves the reader with this question in his mind: “Was Beowulf right in challenging the fire-dragon alone?” I don’t mean in a statistical, factual sense, because the answer there is already quite obvious: It was a total disaster for his people for the hero to do this fatal error, since the people, without a strong leader, are now subject to reprisals from all their enemies. Perhaps for this reason the poet does not

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