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Good vs. Evil in Beowulf
Transcript of Good vs. Evil in Beowulf
The Good: Beowulf
Beowulf embodies everything the Anglo-Saxons saw as good or ideal in a warrior. This includes strength, intellegence, bravery, fame,and honorable achievments.
How has the concept of good vs. evil evolved with time?
The concept of good vs. evil is still a major part of today's culture. It can be seen in many major franchises such as
Lord of the Rings
, and most Disney movies. However, in
, the monsters are evil because of their nature, while most modern ideas of good and evil focus on evil as deliberate wrongdoing.
Beowulf's strength gives him his fighting talent and makes him a formiddable warrior and, eventually, a respected king.
His intelligence allows him to defeat Grendel and his mother, both embodiments of evil.
Bravery is probably the most important of Beowulf's virtues to the Anglo-Saxons, as it is bravery that leads Beowulf into battle against all three monsters.
Almost anything Beowulf does is motivated by a desire for fame and honor- this is why he goes after Grendel and the dragon, and why he boasts of previous accomplishments before battles.
The Bad: The Dragon
The dragon embodies greed
Only starts torching villages after treasure is stolen
Defeating the Dragon represents Beowulf and Wiglaf overcoming the evil of greed
Beowulf asks Wiglaf to bring him the treasure they won from the dragon to see that he had done some good in winning it for his kingdom
He then asks Wiglaf to become king and use the treasure for the good of the kingdom
Wiglaf does not use the treasure for himself or the kingdom, but buries it in Beowulf's tomb to honor the dead king
The Bad: Grendel
Grendel and his mother can be seen as physical embodiments of evil in the story, as they are literally demons descended from Cain.
Grendel embodies spite:
Hates warriors of Herot for no reason other than because they sing of creation and have a sense of brotherhood that he is unable to achieve
Beowulf's defeat of Grendel is essentially a defeat of his own bitter warrior's nature
If Beowulf becomes bitter and callous like Grendel, he loses the ability to feel compassion for people, including his enemies
The Bad: Grendel's Mother
Grendel's mother embodies rage and especially vengefulness after the death of her son
She only becomes a threat once her son is killed- begins killing out of grief
In defeating Grendel's mother, Beowulf sets aside his own warriors' vengeful nature and realizes that there is no honor in killing out of rage
The Good: Wiglaf
Wiglaf embodies two more crucial virtues of Anglo-Saxon culture: Bravery and loyalty. He fights Beowulf's hopeless last battle alongside him when no one else would, remembering the kindnesses his king had done him over the years.
Wiglaf's loyalty and bravery cause him to stand beside Beowulf in his hopeless final battle. This reflection of Beowulf's own virtues is the main reason the aged and dying Beowulf named the young warrior king with his dying breath.