Heroic Characteristics of Beowulf Video

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  • 0:04 What Makes a Hero?
  • 0:35 Heroic Characteristics
  • 4:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.

In 'Beowulf,' the heroic characteristics possessed by Beowulf help him achieve great things. He demonstrates his courage, loyalty, wisdom, strength, and boasting in ways that set him apart from others.

What Makes a Hero?

When you think of a hero, what qualities come to mind? Do you need a superhero like Batman or Ironman, or are you willing to settle for someone who simply exhibits loyalty, wisdom, courage, and strength, and who doesn't mind providing you with his resume to prove his abilities? In the epic poem, Beowulf, we are introduced to a true epic hero. Described as 'the mightiest man on earth, highborn and powerful', Beowulf demonstrates his phenomenal abilities in ways that would make people stop and say, 'oh my.'

Beowulf, An Heroic Story

Heroic Characteristics

Through his strength, honor, and the way he rules his kingdom, Beowulf demonstrates that he possesses the qualities of an epic hero. Beowulf is someone who makes it clear from the moment you meet him that he can and will make sure each man and woman in the kingdom will be safe as long as he's there. He won't let the people down and will do what's necessary to keep everyone from harm. Beowulf is someone who's praised and honored for his deeds, his strength, and the way he leads his life. He's a true epic hero.

There's no doubt that Beowulf is courageous. From the moment he arrives at Heorot, we're aware that he has come to offer the Danish king, Hrothgar, his help in ridding the mead hall of Grendel, the monster who's been killing men and destroying the place for the past twelve years. When Beowulf decides to fight the monster with his bare hands, because that's all the monster has to use, he tells all who listen that God will decide the outcome; 'Whichever one death fells must deem it a just judgment by God.'

Beowulf demonstrates his strength when he rips Grendel's arm out of its socket, sending the monster back to his cave to die, and hangs the trophy from the rafters of the mead hall. He's the man who saved the day, and there is rejoicing for this hero who has restored life in the hall.

He demonstrates that he's a hero with the strength and courage of many men. Beowulf sees it as his job to restore peace and order to the common people, and he does this with ease and grace.

Our epic hero makes his loyalty to others as visible as the shirt his back. He comes to Hrothgar's aid as the result of a familial loyalty because Hrothgar helped Beowulf's father out of a difficult spot many years before. Ridding the kingdom of Grendel and his mother fulfills his duty as a hero.

We see his heroic status once again when he returns to Geatland with tales of his accomplishments that enthrall his king and queen, Hygelac and Hygd. Out of loyalty to his king, Beowulf hands over most of the treasures he received from Hrothgar as a reward for his amazing feats of strength.

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