Pride In Beowulf

2008 Words9 Pages
What makes a great king? Throughout literary history the answer to this question has evolved greatly. In essence, many believe that a king should act with honor, respect and confidence. Of course, confidence may cause excessive pride which leads to an eventual downfall. For example, Beowulf, the hero in the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, receives many warnings of his own downfall in pride. In the beginning of the epic, Beowulf starts off as a warrior that is arrogant but not to the extent of destruction; however, pride eventually proves to be his tragic flaw when he rules over his kingdom. A king may be portrayed as a hero in works of literature but heroes in the Anglo-Saxon time period are, generally speaking, considered warriors or knights. The…show more content…
He fulfills the role well but eventually allows pride to become his downfall. Foremost, the king of the Danes, Hrothgar, says to Beowulf “do not give way to pride./For a brief while your strength is in bloom/but it fades quickly” (1760-2). Hrothgar gives this advice to Beowulf in order to help him realize that his strength, as well as his other qualities, will go away; thus it is important for him to act wisely. In other words, if Beowulf relied on his strength and nothing else, he would not be dependable. The author, foreshadows Beowulf’s downfall in Hrothgar’s speech. In doing this, the poem’s periodic structure subtly hints the idea that Beowulf is better suited as a warrior instead of a king. In the years before he is king Beowulf shows signs of his eventual downfall in his battles. According to Paul Battles, a theme in the epic Beowulf is “the victims’ ignorance of their fate.” Evidently, this is the case for the hero in the poem. Beowulf sees his pride. Other characters even warn him. Beowulf, however, fails to acknowledge and address the issue and continues to be blind in realizing that pride will cause his inevitable death. In preparation to fight Grendel, Beowulf “began to remove his iron breast-mail,/took off the helmet and handed his attendant/the patterned sword” (671-3). Which proves that he confides in himself to defeat the demon without weapons, even after…show more content…
Beowulf is raised in a warrior environment. In fact, his father Ecgtheow, a very famous man, was a great warrior. Young Beowulf sees his father as a role model; furthermore, he tries to be as similar to his father as he can be. For example, as Beowulf is giving his final words to Wiglaf, the narrator says “that was the warriors’s last word” (Heaney, l 2817). When the narrator ends Beowulf’s last moments he calls Beowulf a warrior instead of a king. Proving that Beowulf belongs to a warrior status, not an elite one.Moreover, his kingdom accredits him as a warrior more than they view him as royalty as they give him a viking-style, warrior funeral. Furthermore, when Beowulf passes away, “his soul fled from his breast to its destined place among the steadfast ones” (2819). His soul goes to the warriors’ place in heaven versus going to the kings’ place in heaven. The audience sees the hero’s changes throughout the epic, but the narrator uses periodic structure in order to frame the story around Beowulf being a warrior. He is naturally inclined to act like a warrior instead of a king. According to the American Poetry Review, Beowulf “does manage to slay the dragon, but he also meets his own death and enters the legends of his people as a warrior of high renown.” A king would never fight in battle. A king would trust his warriors to defeat the enemy and come back successful. Although
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