Did he get better or worse?

Today in class we talked about if Beowulf had any sort of character development through out the poem, whether it was negative or positive. When we first see him, he is young and energetic and so full of himself. At the end, he still seems the same with a hint of humanity riding on his back. I wouldn’t say he had a negative development, but I also wouldn’t say he had a positive one. He is still very full of himself, still thinks he can kill anything in his path, and still is as douchy as ever. He is a very greedy man, not just with treasure or women, but with how he is portrayed. He wants to be remembered as the guy who killed Grendel and his mother, but when he dies it has been fifty years since those events, and it seems to be the only thing he talks about. He is literally taking his last breaths and still goes on a tangent about himself, like wtf. He is known as the man that has the grip of 30 men, more than a human, but less than a god ripping Grendel’s arm off like it was nothing. His other battles he used his bare arms, yet he loses that confidence when it comes to the dragon.

“I’d go in without weapons, as I always have,

if this weren’t a dragon. I’d do it like a man, kill it

barehanded, like I killed Grendel so long ago.

But mortal skin can’t contend with a flame- spitting fiend,

and so I go in sword-armed, taking shield and mail-shirt.” (page 108-109, lines 2518-2522).

He finally loses his confidence after 50 years, finally feeling the fear he had never felt with any other “obstacle” he has had, which I guess good for him for finally feeling a normal human emotion. This doesn’t excuse the shitty personality he has.

5 thoughts on “Did he get better or worse?

  1. Both of our posts discuss the changes that Beowulf goes through toward the end of the poem. I might have given him a bit more (and perhaps totally undeserved) credit than you did, but I think you raise some interesting points. It makes me thinks about the implications of him only starting to feel fear, anxiety and remorse when he knows he is about to die. This reminds me of the arc of many classic villains, who remain set in their evil ways until the moment the hero has them mortally wounded, and the express regret at their actions. In fact, I found this link https://villains.fandom.com/wiki/Category:Remorseful?from=Bart+Biederbecke that has a massive list of villains that express remorse, but don’t get a chance to redeem themselves. Thanks for your post!

  2. Hey great post, I agree, I think Beowulf is an incredibly prideful character, and he kinda sucks. Throughout the poem he continuously puts himself in harms way, and when he defeats an enemy he boasts endlessly of the triumph. However, do you think Beowulf could simply be insecure, prompting his braggadocios behavior? I think there are tones of insecurity in Beowulf for sure but it’s a question that’s interested me.

  3. Does aging, in and of itself, constitute character development? We see a lot of aging men in the epic, most notably Hrothgar and Beowulf, and they claim to have changed and gained wisdom in their years, perspective. But your character analysis suggests Beowulf is the same as he always has been! Does aging necessarily bring wisdom then?

  4. I think it’s so interesting that it took Beowulf fifty years to seem/feel insecure, especially if we look about how strongly a certain form of masculinity is pushed within the piece. I have to wonder if it’s the battles we don’t see that change his mind, or rather him finally developing a broader view of the world.

  5. I think we maybe witnessing the beginning of a 3D character… that’s a big maybe. I also do believe age can change perspective, but I’ve met a lot of elderly people still very stuck in their ways, and those ways are sometimes very toxic might I add. Our entire lives we are picking up and holding onto choices that we’ve made and had to carry. What might be happening to our good buddy Beowulf is the slow relinquishment of all those heavy morals he held so close to his chest his whole life; where he might be starting to let go.

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