What do these essays tell us about the qualities of Beowulf?

The question refers to these two articles:

The question ‘what do these essays tell us about the qualities of Beowulf’, can be interpreted in two ways, it can be seen as asking what the qualities of the character Beowulf are, and it can be seen as asking for the qualities in the poem Beowulf, I will cover both in my response.

The New Yorker Magazine’s article on Beowulf the poem describes Beowulf as: “Peerlessly noble, brave, and strong. Each of his hands has a grip equal to that of thirty men.” This describes how mighty, loyal, fearless and physically powerful Beowulf is, as well as providing a rough summary of his qualities. Later on in the same article it talks about how Beowulf has become king of the Geats, then fifty years later a dragon comes to attack the Geats. The article says this in reference to Beowulf and the dragon: “He is about eighty years old now and tired. Still, to protect his people he must eliminate this menace.” This great excerpt from the poem Beowulf, helps the readers to get an idea of Beowulf as a character, he is doing his duty for his people and he is not afraid of the malicious dragon who has come to wreak havoc. The excerpt also shows the qualities of the people in the pagan period/middle ages, as no matter how old, how beaten up you were, you would always soldier on and get the job done.

The beliefs and values of the people in the pagan period (800-1300 A.D.) were faced be bloody, dirty everyday tasks and there was always some kind of conflict, from tribal wars and kid killers to angry wives and frostbite. Another one of the revealing sentences in the article is: “None of the people in the poem care anything about modesty, simplicity (they adore treasure, they count it up), or humility (they boast of their valorous deeds). And death is regarded as final. No one, including Beowulf, is said to be going on to a better place.” This sums up the pagan values and the way in which they think their own quality of life is like.

The values of a medieval era person are:

  • That there are daemons/mythical creatures (always very ghastly and demon-like, nothing like the fairy tales, as the poem Beowulf describes Beowulf’s journey and battles with Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the Dragon).
  • There is a heaven and a hell (live by god, just as we see the unison of the churches beliefs imbedded into Beowulf).
  • Greed and luxury are sins, unless you are noble born(hence the folk in Beowulf live in standard conditions, often in brutal times).

Overall the essays do ramble on about the story of poem, rather than clearly indicating the qualities of Beowulf, but in summary the qualities of Beowulf are: courage, loyalty, physical strength and doing right by god. But to do right by god and show his qualities, Beowulf goes on three epic quests to defeat the three most powerful demonic creatures known to the people in the poem Beowulf, but it’s no biggie, am I right?


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