Character Analysis in Beowulf

Beowulf is an ancient English epic poem written between 975 and 1025 that is set in the Viking age. Beowulf, a warrior, and commander face dangerous beasts and magical creatures in the poem. He battles them in order to protect people who require assistance but are unable to defend themselves against their assailants. The poem is regarded as a masterpiece of Old English literature. It depicts Anglo-Saxon tribes’ daily lives in the sixth century, provides historical evidence for specific events, and connects many historical events, Scandinavian tales and myths.

 

Character Analysis of Beowulf

The poem’s main character is Beowulf. He arrives to assist King Hrothgar, whose army is being terrorized by Grendel. Beowulf murders Grendel then murders Grendel’s mother, who has come after Beowulf to avenge her son. He is then crowned King of Geatland, but his reign is not without incident, as a fire-breathing dragon attacks him. The dragon injures Beowulf so severely that he dies from his wounds.

Beowulf is first and foremost associated with bravery when discussing his character traits. He demonstrates his fearlessness in battles with beasts and mysterious creatures on numerous occasions. We come across a story in the text that depicts his bravery:

Lines 2456-2461 of the poem “Beowulf” “When he comes up to me, I intend to stand, not run away from his flaming arrows, but stand until fate chooses which of us will prevail. “My heart is steady, and my hands are calm: I don’t require any hot words.” “

Beowulf says that his “heart is firm,” implying that he is ready to face the dragon and stand up to him no matter how intense the dragon is. This means that Beowulf is fearless, despite knowing that he would not defeat the dragon on his own.

Strength is another character trait that Beowulf possesses. He states:

Lines 602-605 of the poem “Beowulf”

“However, the truth is straightforward: no man ever swims in the water.

As far as I can tell, no one’s strength can compete with mine.”

Even though it may appear that Beowulf was bragging and that all of his words were just words, readers can see evidence of his testimony throughout the poem. They witness him easily defeat Grendel and his mother, realizing that he was, in fact, the strongest of all. With the strength of 30 men, he ripped Grendel’s arm out of his socket and killed him.

In addition to being a brave and strong warrior, Beowulf is also portrayed as a wise and righteous king who ruled over Geatland. He has successfully ridden his land and kingdom of wars and conflicts with other tribes. And he reigned for over 50 years before being assassinated by the dragon.

In the poem, Beowulf’s role is to serve as an example of a strong and brave warrior whose actions speak for themselves. He was a skilled warrior, a wise, good king, and a true hero.

Hrothgar

Hrothgar was the Danes’ King. He is portrayed as a wise king and a good ruler who is well-liked by his subjects. He erected a magnificent mead-hall for his tribe. He was, unfortunately, too old to face Grendel. Grendel was powerful, and everyone feared him and his rage, including Hrothgar. Hrothgar’s children were far too young to stand up to Grendel. Beowulf arrived to save Hrothgar, his family, and the army from the terrible beast. Hrothgar expressed his appreciation for Beowulf’s loyalty by bestowing armor, horses, gold, and numerous other gifts. The author trivializes Hrothgar’s role, even though he was a great king who could not face the monster.

 

Wiglaf

When Beowulf, who had already become King of the Geats, decided to confront the flame-breathing dragon that terrorized his land and people, he surrounded himself with many men who agreed to join him in the ferocious battle. However, only Wiglaf remained and fought alongside Beowulf in deadly combat when the dragon appeared.

Lines 2666-68 of the poem Beowulf

“My lord, your deeds are well-known, so maintain your resolve.

Now is the time to defend your life with everything you have.

I will always be by your side.”

Wiglaf swore his loyalty to Beowulf in these lines, promising to stay with him until the end. Wiglaf delivered on his promise. He not only fought alongside Beowulf, but he also washed his wounds and granted his dying wishes. Wiglaf was fully rewarded for his good deeds, and he became the next Geatish king. In the poem, Wiglaf serves as an example of a loyal, kind-hearted, and brave warrior, showing readers how they should treat their king.

 

Unferth

The Danes threw an excellent party for Beowulf and his army as they arrived at the mead-hall to assist Hrothgar and his army in their fight against Grendel. After partaking in various festivities, a Danish warrior named Unferth began disparaging Beowulf, treating him with disgrace and disrespect. Unferth did not believe that Beowulf had accomplished all of the feats he was famous for, such as the swimming contest. Unferth stands in stark contrast to Beowulf. He lacked moral judgment and was envious of Beowulf’s strength. However, after Beowulf defeated Grendel, Unferth gave Beowulf his sword to kill Grendel’s mother. Unferth’s performance demonstrates that he changed his mind and, after all, he wasn’t all that bad. Unferth’s character was created to show what jealousy can do to a person and show that everyone has some good inside of them that will come out when the time is right.

 

Ecgtheow

Beowulf’s father was Ecgtheow. He once murdered a man named Heatholaf. As a result, he was embroiled in a bloody conflict with a tribe known as the Wulfings. He sought refuge in the Kingdom of the Danes, ruled by King Hrothgar, to escape the fighting and avoid their vengeance. Hrothgar took matters into his own hands, apologized to the Wulfings, and Ecgtheow was forgiven. In exchange, Ecgtheow swore allegiance to Hrothgar. When Beowulf learned of Hrothgar’s troubles with Grendel, he resolved to assist Hrothgar by keeping his father’s oath and fulfilling it even after his father’s death. Beowulf referred to his father as a “noble battle-beater” (line 263) and expressed his love and respect for him.

 

Character Analysis of Grendel

Grendel was a beast that Beowulf had to defeat to aid Hrothgar. According to the quote below, he had no mercy and terrorized Hrothgar’s warriors daily.

Lines 140-148 of “Beowulf”

“The monster cherished his savage war on the Danes, keeping the bloody feud alive by seeking no peace, offering no truce, accepting no settlement, paying the living for one crime only with another. No one waited for retribution from his plundering claws: that shadow of death stalked Hrothgar’s warriors in the darkness.” “

Grendel’s nature was vicious and cruel. He bore the curse that had befallen him as one of Cain’s descendants for the murder of his innocent brother Abel. He was lonely; he had no friends and a tiny family in nature. He envied the Danes’ good relationship with one another, their laughter, friendships, and celebrations. He attacked them whenever he heard Heorot exude joy. His reaction represents an attack on the human race as a whole and the concept of society. Grendel was depicted as a ruthless, violent, cruel, and jealous creature who thrived solely on killing and destroying. He was a personification of all that was evil in the world.

 

Grendel’s mother

Beowulf’s mother came to avenge him after he killed Grendel. She represents her son’s grief, rage, despair, anger, and love. She decided that blood could only be repaid with blood, and she attempted to murder Beowulf by tricking him into coming to her cave. Beowulf kills her because she fails. In the poem, she is portrayed as a “monster-woman” who has gone insane due to her loss and is willing to go to any length to exact revenge on Beowulf for her son’s death.

 

The Dragon’s Name

Beowulf fought another, and final, beast, the dragon. The dragon attacked Geats after Beowulf’s peaceful reign of over 50 years. Someone had stolen his treasure, and the dragon was furious, destroying everything and everyone in his path. He set fire to homes and killed innocent people. He was merciless by nature, just like Grendel, and nothing could stop him from spreading terror. He was avaricious, the polar opposite of King Beowulf’s generosity.

Numerous other characters in Beowulf have complicated relationships with one another and distinct characteristics. We only looked at the ones who mattered the most and played the most critical roles in the poem, such as Beowulf; King Hrothgar; the faithful warrior Wiglaf; the jealous thane Unferth; Beowulf’s father Ecgtheow; and three terrible beasts: the dragon, Grendel, and his mother.