Heroism Beowulf Essay

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The man she chooses is Æschere, Hrothgar’s closest advisor, in a tit-for-tat killing that’s meant to match the loss of her only son (ll. It’s a point the poet drives home with a grim pun – just as Beowulf took Grendel’s ‘ The final of the three monsters enters the poem late in Beowulf’s life.

No longer a young warrior out to make a name for himself, our hero is now an aged king when he is called on to defend his people from a fire-breathing dragon (ll. This is the most conventional of the monsters Beowulf encounters – we all know a dragon when we see one – yet it’s also the most challenging.

is – today – one of the most important surviving works of medieval literature.

It is by far the longest Old English poem and – at just over 3,000 lines – preserves about one tenth of surviving English verse from before the Norman Conquest. There isn’t a lot we know about who composed it, or why, or even when.

Most critics today would disagree: the monsters now hold a ‘central importance …

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crucial to the very structure of the poem’– at its heart – the story of a heroic man who kills three monsters and then dies.

1351), but her attack differs in some significant ways.

Rather than wholesale destruction, she kills just one Dane before fleeing home with her son’s severed arm.

Grendel’s mother attacks for one very simple reason: revenge.

In a society that’s heavily defined by loyalty and family ties, vengeance poses problems, fuelling violence, destruction and instability. Earlier on I referred to Grendel as an unknown quantity, and that’s the exact threat he poses.


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