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Beowulf – Epic Poem

In the epic poem Beowulf, there is an obvious distinction between good and evil. The hero and his foes play roles that are commonly associated with Anglo-Saxon literature. The lines are clearly drawn and expressed in the poem. As the story moves, the reader cannot mistake the roles being played, based on the characterizations in the epic, one recognizes each character for their purpose and place. The epic is named after the hero, Beowulf, who is a man with gleaming armor.

Because Beowulf is the strongest of the Geats- greater than anyone in the world he was called upon by his uncle Higlac, the king of the Geats, to save Herot from the wrath of Grendel, a terrible monster. (lines 110-111) With him he carries… weapons… no commoner (carries). (lines163-164) His characteristics are that of a superhuman, perfect, stronger than the rest. As the protagonist, Beowulf is a larger than life hero, who has traveled from his homeland to the Danish shores so that he may save the Danes from the torture and terror of Grendel.

In the battles of the epic, for the most part he succeeds in the protection of the Danes. Beowulf , a prince of the Geats, had killed Grendel, ended the grief, the sorrow, the suffering forced on Hrothgars helpless people. (lines 403-406) He eliminates both Grendel, and Grendels mother. Eventually, at a ripe old age, Beowulf finally suffers the wrath of the dragon. He epitomizes the values of a warrior society which include bravery, loyalty, and prowess in battle. As a bloodthirsty fiend, Grendel was the first of the foes Beowulf battles. line 407) He is a powerful monster, who was spawned in… slime. (lines 1, 19)

He is a descendant of Cain, and chose to sacrifice the Danes to no one but himself. Grendel is set on murder. (49-50) Nothing can quench his thirst for evil. (lines 52-53) Grendel stalked Herot and set his wrath loose on all who came to the hall. His mother, the she-wolf lived in an underwater cavern. (line 572) She is the water witch, one that no ones sword could slice her evil skin. (lines 493, 496-497) Both characters are demons living only to hate, and cause terror in the hearts of those who know of them.

The third villain comes much later than the first two. The dragon is Beowulfs last enemy, and last battle. The beast poured out fire and smoke, and was one who coiled and uncoiled at the sight of a human. (line 673) The dragon menaces Beowulfs kingdom and as an old man he is forced to fight the beast. The antagonists are evil and uncaring of human life, each choosing to end it when they please.

They are bad and it shows. One night as Grendel decides to pay a visit to Herot in hope of killing, He was surprised as his second villain chose to fight back, instantly seized himself. line 323) The battle eventually turns in the favor of Beowulf, he forces horrible shrieks of pain and defeat from Grendel. (lines 361-362) Beowulf conquers and kills Grendel, taking the monsters arm, claw and shoulder as both proof and a trophy of the feat. When the she wolf learns of her sons death, she sacrifices a friend of the kings and basically challenges Beowulf. He is forced to enter her lair, beneath the lake, and battle.

Grendels fierce mother was a worthy match for the strongest of soldiers. lines 512, 516) She was eventually defeated by her own sword, something located on the wall of her own underwater hall. The dragon chose to battle because he bothered the countryside. Entering the dragons cave Beowulf stared at death. (line 699) The fight finally ended the old kings life. The poem, Beowulf, is one that the reader can easily separate the characters purposes in the epic. Beowulf celebrates the deeds of its hero, and scorns his foes. The legend is a timeless piece and a tale that is easy to read and easy to study and analyze its characters.

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