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Is Beowulf an epic?
Transcript of Is Beowulf an epic?
a hero who embodies the values of a culture or ethnic group
something vital that depends on the success of the hero's actions
a broad setting
intervention by supernatural beings
What is an epic?
: An Epic?
Excels in skill, strength, and courage
Succeds in war and adventure
Values in honor and glory
Battles demons and monsters
Is generous to his followers and ruthless to his enemies
Goes on a quest
Achieves his goal
A human with characteristics a society admires
What characterizes an Epic Hero?
Yes, Beowulf is an epic hero. Beowulf is known as "the strongest of the Geats" and is considered "greater and stronger than anyone anywhere in this world" (Lines 195-196). This exemplifies his characteristic of strength. He goes on a quest to Denmark to help the Danes defeat the evil demon Grendel, and he achieved his goal of killing Grendel once and for all. Beowulf can be considered ethical because of his protective nature and willingness to help the Danes defeat Grendel.
Is Beowulf an Epic Hero?
Yes, Beowulf is an epic. According to the definition of an epic, intervention of supernatural beings occur. In Beowulf, the poet "simultaneously acknowledges God's will" and valued God himself (Bartz 1). For example, in the beginning the Danes were given a new leader (Beowulf) which was "allowed [to] them by the grace of God" (Line 14). The Danes thanked God for the leader they were given. Another supernatural being would be Grendel. He can be defined as a powerful monster, a demon and a fiend. "He is supernatural and evil but not the Devil" (Bartz 6). Demons are considered supernatural, and Grendel, being apparent throughout the epic, is a supernatural being.
Is Beowulf an Epic?
What values does the poem promote, and how does it promote them?
Leadership is a trait valued by the Anglo-Saxons. Beowulf shows his leadership capabilities by proving what a great leader he was for the Geats. "Then Beowulf rose, still brave, still strong, and with his shield at his side, and a mail shirt on his breast, strode calmly, confidently, toward the tower, under the rocky cliffs: no coward would have walked there!" (Lines 2538-2541). He led his people fearless, even while facing death. He protected his people with his life and eventually sacrificed his life for the sake of his people. That displays great leadership.
Courage: Courage is also a heroic value and an Anglo-Saxon value. Beowulf portrays great courage when fighting Grendel. He knows "Grendel is no braver, no stronger than [he is]," so he chooses to fight him "with [his] hands empty," rather than with his sword (Lines 678, 683). This shows Beowulf's courageousness.
Fate, or God's will, is a value emphasized greatly. Coinciding with Beowulf's great courage while battling Grendel, fate is apparent at this point in the epic. Beowulf believes that "fate saves the living when they drive away death by themselves," so he decides to "let God in His wisdom extend His hand where He wills, [and] reward whom He chooses" (Lines 572-573, 685-687).
Courage and Fate
Strength is a heroic value, as well as an Anglo-Saxon value. Beowulf is described as "a mighty warrior, powerful and wise" (Line 370). The strength of him is mentioned throughout the epic. He battles monsters and fire breathing dragons, and is never afraid. He not only shows physical strength, but mental strength as well.
Is Beowulf an Epic?
Beowulf acts as an epic hero throughout the epic as well. Something vital that depends on Beowulf's actions is the execution of Grendel. The safety of the Danes depended on Beowulf killing Grendel once and for all. They had to live in fear. The warriors who stayed in Herot tried to escape Grendel by "search[ing] for rest in different beds, as far from Herot as they could find," because the Danes knew that "distance was safety" (Lines 138-140, 142). Beowulf traveled from his "far off home," the land of Geats, to battle Grendel (Line 195). He battled Grendel and killed him, restoring the Danes safety. The broad setting is apparent in the epic because when traveling to Denmark to battle Grendel, the Geats were the ones "who have come sailing the open ocean to [Denmark], come far over the high waves," thus proving the distance (Lines 361-363).
What sorts of conflicts with or resistances to the ideology of epic can be expressed?
An epic usually has only one culture that the hero embodies. In
, the epic hero personifies heroic code and Christianity. Typically, an epic has one goal, and one goal only. Beowulf has three goals.
Heroic code states that "glory is achieved in this life through noble deeds," while Christianity claims that "glory lies only in the hereafter" (Stitt 4). Beowulf is always trying to glorify himself by impressing others with his actions. For example, when he returned to Geatland, he was asked by Higlac to share what happened in Denmark. He shared that "when Healfdane's famous son heard that [he'd gone] to challenge Grendel, he gave [Beowulf] a seat of honor alongside his son" (Lines 2011-2013). Rather than telling the story, he placed the glory on himself, which exhibits the heroic code. On the other hand, the Christianity aspect of glory can be seen as well. Throughout the poem, Beowulf moves away from "ancient pagan heroic values to Christian heroic values" (Bartz 1). In the beginning, he is "a brave fighter" who chooses to glorify himself, but in the end, "he has become a wise and noble king" that does not place any glory on himself (Stitt 6). When Hygelac died, Beowulf did not immediately take the throne, he glorified Hygelac until it was his rightful time to take the throne. While king, Beowulf protected his people and did not expect anything in return. After he passed by getting an injury from fighting the dragon, he received riches and gestures of glory, and was glorified in the hereafter.
Typically, an epic only has one goal, or conflict on the poem. For example, The conflict of The Odyssey by Homer is Odysseus must return home and vanquish the suitors who threaten his estate; Telemachus must mature and secure his own reputation in Greek society. In Beowulf, the conflicts are Grendel’s domination of Herot Hall; the vengeance of Grendel’s mother after Grendel is slain; and the rage of the dragon after a thief steals a treasure that it has been guarding. The poem’s overarching conflict is between close-knit warrior societies and the various menaces that threaten their boundaries.
Bartz, Emily Nicole. Beowulf: God, Men, and Monsters (n.d.): n. pag. 2010. Web. 9 Sept. 2014. <https://www.mnsu.edu/urc/journal/2010/bartz.pdf>.
Stitt, J. Michael, Dr. "Beowulf and the Heroic Code." English 447 Tolkien & Fantasy Literature. University of Nevada Las Vegas, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2014. <https://faculty.unlv.edu/jmstitt/Eng477/papers1/code.html>.