Opposing Character elements in "Beowulf"

Essay by Anonymous UserHigh School, 10th gradeA+, November 1996

download word file, 4 pages 4.2

Downloaded 75 times

The Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf is the most important work of Old

English literature, and is well deserved of the distinction. The epic tells the

story of a hero, a Scandinavian prince named Beowulf, who rids the Danes

of the monster Grendel, a descendent of Cain, and of his exploits fighting

Grendel's mother and a Dragon. Throughout the epic, the Anglo-Saxon

story teller uses many elements to build a certain depth to the characters.

Just a few of the important character elements in Beowulf are Wealth &

Honor, Biblical & Paganistic, and Man vs. Wild themes.

Many of the characters in Beowulf are, like in most epics, defined by

their status. But, in addition to status, the Anglo-Saxon culture also adds an

element of honor. To the Anglo-Saxons, a character's importance, as well as

their wealth and status, where measured not only in monetary terms, but it

was also measured in terms of honor, fame, and accomplishments.

Hrothgar, king of the Danes, is one example of the Anglo-Saxon

measurement of importance in Beowulf. In Canto 1 the story teller describes

his wealth and importance, not as mounds of gold or jewels, but instead as

his ability to "[lead] the Danes to such glory." and as his tendency to "In

battle, [leave] the common pasture untouched, and taking no lives."

Through this display of compassion for the commoner who doesn't fight in

battles, Hrothgar proves the full extent of his honor and therefore the extent

of his wealth and status. Beowulf, the hero-prince, also proves his true

wealth and status through his deeds as defender of the Danes.. As he fights

and defeats Grendel, Beowulf Earns Fame and wealth from his companions,

and from the Danes, but more importantly, he earns honor raising him to the

level of an...