Beowulf Exam 1 Essay

Submitted By deathkiller1987
Words: 790
Pages: 4

Seamus Heaney describes the society that Beowulf lives in as “honour-bound and blood-stained (P. XIII).” When you live in a world that advocates honor code like Beowulf does, you better behave like a warrior. However, what does it mean to be a warrior in Beowulf? “It is always better to avenge dear ones that to indulge in mourning. For every one of us, living in this world means waiting for our end. Let whoever can win glory before death. When a warrior is gone, that will be his best and only bulwark (P.97).” From this passage alone, we can somewhat understand what a warrior like Beowulf lives for is glory and honor. The poem can be broken into three major events: the fight with Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. Even though the three encounters express the heroic code, we can classify them into two divisions: one is the fearless warrior in his youth, and the other is the responsible king when he gets old. Beowulf is the perfect example that portrays the ethics of a warrior and the ethics of a king of pre-Anglo-Saxon culture.
Throughout the story, we can see the development of Beowulf from a good warrior into a good king. The difference between these two sets of values can be seen from the early part of the poem in the descriptions of Beowulf and king Hrothgar. In his youth, having nothing to lose, Beowulf is a fearless, brave warrior that desires personal glory. His actions illustrate Germanic heroic code, which values strength, bravery, and loyalty in a warrior. For example, “…my one request is that you won’t refuse me, who have come this far, the privilege of purifying Heorot, with my own men to help me, and nobody else…Whichever one death fells must deem it a just judgement by God. If Grendel wins it will be a gruesome day (P.31).” This passage demonstrates that the reason Beowulf fights is to boast his heroic characteristic and to show his loyalty to the king rather than to protect the people of Danes. If he were the kind of person who cared about the people that he fought for, he wouldn’t act reckless like he did. He doesn’t take the outcome of this fight seriously. He never thinks about what would happen to the Danes people if he loses the fight as long as he can fight heroically. Also, during the period of Hygelac’s death, Beowulf doesn’t take the throne for himself, instead he support Hygelac’s son, the rightful heir. This period shows the loyalty of Beowulf to the king, and it’s a transition of Beowulf from a reckless to a thoughtful warrior. This is what his society expects from a warrior.
Contrast to the traits of a warrior, the ethics of a good king contains generosity, hospitality, and political skill. We can see these values in king Hrothgar and the aged Beowulf. Hrothgar, the aged king of Danes, who accepts Beowulf’s help to kill the monster Grendel, helps to transform Beowulf into maturity. Even though Hrothgar lives by the heroic code like