The Pessimism of Beowulf in the Epic Poem, Beowulf Essay

2837 Words12 Pages
Anticipation of catastrophe, doom, gloom are present in Beowulf rom beginning to end, even in the better half of the poem, Part I. Perhaps this is part of what makes it an elegy – the repeated injection of sorrow and lamentation into every episode.

In his essay, “The Pessimism of Many Germanic Stories,” A. Kent Hieatt says of the poem Beowulf:

The ethical life of the poem, then, depends upon the propositions that evil. . . that is part of this life is too much for the preeminent man. . . . that after all our efforts doom is there for all of us” (48).

In Part I of Beowulf the poet establishes Beowulf as an incomparable superman and celebrates his greatness. The occasion for this was the unfortunate situation which
…show more content…
Beowulf chooses to fight Grendel by himself and without shield or weapons; previously the hero slew nine sea monsters with his sword. And he is fully willing to sacrifice his very life for this: “… I alone will fulfill the wish of your people … or die in the foe’s grasp.” Beowulf consciously chooses to act in a superhuman manner: “I shall perform the deeds of a hero or I have passed my last day in this mead-hall.” Even Grendel, who is pessimism personified, the antithesis of Heorot’s joy, recognizes the hero’s superior strength: “The criminal knew he had not met in this middle-earth another with such a grip.” Other warriors, when thinking of Beowulf, “would quickly compose a skillful tale in words.” Hrothgar refers to Beowulf as “the best of warriors.” The Danish queen Wealhtheow compliments after Grendel’s defeat, “You have earned forever the praise of men from near and far.”

But even Grendel’s defeat is tinged with pessimism and foreboding by the death of Hondscio, a good Geat warrior.Hrothgar expounds on good warriors: “This is the best-born man – my friend Beowulf … the best of

More about The Pessimism of Beowulf in the Epic Poem, Beowulf Essay

Open Document