Beowulf and the Realities of Human Nature

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Since the dawn of time, humans have behaved in particular ways, which have been passed down throughout the generations. Certain negative instincts, like envy or hatred, come almost naturally to humans and can stay with them for the rest of their lives. Grendel and Beowulf are no exceptions to this logic, as both seem to highlight negative behavior in human beings. The reality is that humans are naturally flawed, and this can be seen in both works of literature, manifesting in the forms of selfishness, ignorance, and pride.

One of the major downfalls of human nature is selfishness. When one thinks only of oneself and disregards others, there are generally consequences and someone will be wronged. One of the major examples of selfishness in Beowulf occurs when an escaped slave steals a bejeweled goblet from the barrow of a resting dragon, which in turn rouses the dragon. The slave intended to “[steal] a jeweled cup and [buy]/ his masters forgiveness, [beg] for mercy/ and [be] pardoned when his delighted lord took the present,” (Raffel lines 2281-2283.) Although he may have had good intentions (towards himself), the slaves selfish behavior is what “stirred the dragons anger”, (Raffel lines 2286-2287) and causes the dragon to burn down the town. Beowulf, being the stereotypical Anglo-Saxon that he is, felt it necessary to have his revenge, and sought out the dragon. This action leads to another example of selfishness, and ultimately Beowulf’s own demise. When Beowulf goes to slay the dragon, he is deserted by his seemingly “loyal” men. “…None of his comrades/ came to him, helped him, his brave and noble/ followers; they ran for their lives, fled/ deep in a wood,” (Raffel lines 2596-2599.) Although the brave and mighty Wiglaf attempted to come to Beowulf’s rescue, it was simply not enough, and “from his bosom departed/ his soul to seek the sainted ones’ glory,” (Hall lines XXXVIII 66-67.) The fact of the matter is that humans will naturally abide by the motto of...
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