Beowulf is an Old English epic poem created anywhere from 975 to 1025. In the poem, Beowulf, a warrior and commander, faces dangerous beasts and magical creatures. He fights them to guard those who need help and cannot resist their enemies. The poem is considered an incredibly important bit of Old English literature. It showcases every day life of Anglo-Saxon tribes in the 6th century, provides historical proof of certain events, and ties together many Scandinavian tales, historical events and fables.

In this specific article, we will look at Beowulf and every one of the supporting characters around him.

Beowulf Character Analysis

Beowulf is the main character of the poem. He involves help king Hrothgar, whose army had been terrorized by Grendel. Beowulf kills Grendel, and then kills Grendel’s mother—who came after Beowulf to avenge her son. Then becomes king of Geatland, but his reign as king had not been peaceful; that he gets attacked by a fire-breathing dragon. The dragon hurts Beowulf so badly that Beowulf dies from his wounds.

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When speaking about his character characteristics, first and foremost, Beowulf is connected with bravery. You'll find so many occasions to which that he shows how fearless he's in fights against beasts and mysterious creatures. In the text we come across such narrative that portrays his bravery:

"Beowulf", lines 2456-2461 "When he comes to me
I mean to stand, not run from his shooting
Flames, stand till fate decides
Which of us wins. My heart is firm,
My hands calm: I need no hot
Words."

Here Beowulf says that his “heart is firm”, which alludes he is ready to face the dragon and remain true against him no matter how strong the dragon could be. This implies that Beowulf is fearless, although he knew that by himself he failed to stand a chance from the dragon.

Still another trait of character immanent to Beowulf is strength. He says:

"Beowulf", lines 602-605 "But the truth
Is simple: no man swims in the sea
As I can, no strength is a match for mine"

Though it might sound that Beowulf was showing off, and that all his words were just words, readers have an opportunity to see proof of his testimony through the entire poem. They see him beat Grendel and his mother easily, realizing that, indeed, that he was the strongest of most. He killed Grendel by ripping his arm out of his socket with the strength of 30 men.

Besides being a brave and strong warrior, Beowulf is also characterized as an extremely wise and righteous king who ruled over Geatland. He were able to free his land and kingdom from wars and conflicts with other tribes. And that he reigned peacefully for over 50 years until that he was killed by the dragon.

The role of Beowulf in the poem is to show an example of a powerful and brave warrior whose actions speak for themselves. Not only was he a talented warrior, but in addition a wise, good king and a real hero.

You might also be interested in reading «Beowulf summary»

Hrothgar

Hrothgar was the King of the Danes. He is portrayed as a really good ruler and a wise king, loved by his people. He built a beautiful mead-hall for his tribe. Unfortuitously, he was too old to face Grendel. Grendel was strong, and everyone, including Hrothgar, feared him and his rage. Hrothgar’s young ones were far too young to stand up against Grendel aswell. This is when Beowulf arrived to save Hrothgar, his family and the army from the terrible beast. Hrothgar showed his gratitude in relation to Beowulf’s loyalty by gifting him armor, horses, gold, and many other gifts. Mcdougal trivializes Hrothgar role, for he was a great king unable to face the monster.

Wiglaf

When Beowulf, who had already become the king of Geats, decided to operate against the flame-breathing dragon who terrorized his land and folks, he surrounded himself by many men who agreed to join him in the vicious fight. Even though, when the dragon showed up, out of all of the men, only Wiglaf stayed and fought in deadly combat alongside Beowulf.

Beowulf, lines 2666-68 "Your deeds are famous, so stay resolute, my lord
Defend your life now with the complete of your strength.
I shall stand by you."

It’s in these lines where we note that Wiglaf swore his loyalty to Beowulf to stay with him till the last second. Wiglaf lived up to his promise. Not merely did that he fight along with Beowulf, but he washed his wounds, and fulfilled his last wishes before death. Wiglaf was rewarded in full for his good deeds – he became the next Geatish king. In the poem, Wiglaf can be an example of a loyal, kind-hearted and brave warrior—giving readers an example of how people should treat their king.

Unferth

As Beowulf and his army arrived at the mead-hall to simply help Hrothgar and his army fight Grendel, the Danes threw them an excellent party. After indulging in different celebrations, one thane, a Danish warrior named Unferth, started disparaging Beowulf, treating him with disrespect and disgrace. Unferth failed to believe that Beowulf had succeeded in all the feats he was known for, including the swimming contest. Unferth is just a juxtaposition to Beowulf. He'd a poor moral judgement; that he was jealous of Beowulf and his strength. Even though after Beowulf had defeated Grendel, Unferth gave his sword to Beowulf to go kill Grendel’s mother. This act by Unferth showcases he changed his mind and, after all, that he was not all that bad. Unferth’s character was created to exhibit what jealousy does to a person, but in addition that everyone else holds some good inside them, it was bound to show, if the moment was right.

Ecgtheow

Ecgtheow was Beowulf’s father. Once, he killed a man named Heatholaf. As a result of this, he was in a blood-shedding war with a tribe called Wulfings. Attempting to escape from the conflict and to avoid their revenge, he sought refuge and found it in the Kingdom of the Danes ruled by king Hrothgar. Hrothgar took matters in to his own hands, apologized to Wulfings, they forgave Ecgtheow. In return, Ecgtheow gave an oath of allegiance to Hrothgar. When Beowulf heard bout Hrothgar’s trouble with Grendel, he made a decision to help Hrothgar by staying true to his father’s oath also to fulfill it even after his death. Beowulf spoke of his father as a “noble battle-beater” (line 263), and showed his respect and in loving memory.

Grendel Character Analysis

Grendel was a beast that Beowulf had to fight to help Hrothgar. In the quote below we observe that he had no mercy and terrorized Hrothgar’s warriors everyday.

"Beowulf" lines 140-148 "The monster relished his savage war
On the Danes, keeping the bloody feud
Alive, seeking no peace, offering
No truce, accepting no settlement, no price
In gold or land, and paying the living
For one crime only with another. No one
Waited for reparation from his plundering claws:
That shadow of death hunted in the darkness,
Stalked Hrothgar's warriors."

Grendel was vicious and cruel in his nature. That he suffered a curse that had befallen him as you of Cain’s descendants for killing his innocent brother Abel. That he was lonely in nature; he had no friends and hardly any family. He was jealous of the Danes — the good relationship they had with one another, their laughing, friendships and celebrations. That he attacked them every time that he heard joy coming out of Heorot. His reaction symbolizes an attack on the people overall and the concept of society. Grendel was portrayed as a merciless, violent, cruel and jealous creature thriving only to kill and destroy. He was a representation of all of the evil in the world.

Mother of Grendel

After Beowulf had killed Grendel, his mother came to avenge him. She represents grief, rage, despair, anger and love on her son. She decided that blood could only be repaid with blood and tried to kill Beowulf by tricking him to come calmly to her cave. She fails and gets killed by Beowulf. In the poem she represents a “monster-woman” gone insane from her loss who’s ready to do anything to have back at Beowulf on her poor son’s death.

The Dragon

The dragon was another, and the final, beast that Beowulf fought. After Beowulf’s peaceful reign of over 50 years, the dragon attacked Geats. Someone had stolen his treasure, and in rage the dragon destroyed everything and everyone that came along. That he burnt down homes and killed innocent people. Exactly like Grendel, in his nature he was merciless, and nothing could stop him from spreading terror. That he was greedy, the complete opposite of king Beowulf’s generosity.

There are many other characters in Beowulf who have complicated relationships with one another and different faculties. In this article we only viewed the ones that matter the most and play the best role in the poem, such as: Beowulf himself; king Hrothgar; the faithful warrior Wiglaf; the jealous thane Unferth; Beowulf’s father Ecgtheow; and three terrible beasts: the dragon, Grendel, and his mother.

Feel a Little Lost in These Complicated Matters?

Beowulf is a complex piece of literature. In order to grasp it, one requires a solid knowledge of Anglo-Saxon myths and legends, culture and history of Scandinavia, historical references to other themes, and concepts. When you are in a situation where you type "do my math homework", you can always rely on our essay writer service. Our knowledgeable experts are ready to work with you with an essay on Beowulf or any literature piece.

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