Beowulf Character Study

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Getting “Wiggy” with Beowulf’s Wiglaf: A Character Study “I am Beowulf. I’ve come to kill your monster,” the protagonist declares upon his arrival to Herot, but what about his sidekick Wiglaf? Wiglaf is not even mentioned in the epic poem until the final battle. Set and likely composed sometime during the sixth century, Beowulf is the cornerstone of modern literature and was first recorded on paper sometime in the eighth century. An archetypal story of good versus evil, Beowulf continues to enthrall audiences 1,500 years after its conception. A recent version directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring some of today’s most well respected actors, was produced in 2007. Zemeckis changes many of the poem’s characters to increase appeal to modern audiences. Wiglaf, the archetypal warrior and companion, remains virtually unchanged but enjoys a weightier role. Wiglaf is the archetypal warrior and companion. A Geat soldier under Beowulf’s command, his defining moment occurs when he refuses to leave Beowulf’s side during the final conflict. Unlike his brethren, he will not abandon his leader. Furthermore, and to no avail, he tries to inspire his fellow soldiers to charge the dragon, because his leader alone is no match for his competitor. Together, Wiglaf and Beowulf are able to slay the dragon. They are archetypal warriors. Wiglaf remembers he “‘swore to repay [Beowulf]…with our lives, if he needed them.’” (711-713). Wiglaf understands that to gain status within a patriarchal society, he must be selfless, quick thinking, and brave. Both characters loyally fight for their leader: Wiglaf for Beowulf, and Beowulf for his king. That is where their similarities end, however. While Beowulf is the archetypal hero, Wiglaf is the archetypal companion, which is evidenced when Beowulf is mortally wounded, and Wiglaf is “anxious to return while Beowulf was alive…Hoping his wounded king, weak/And dying, had not left the world too soon” (794-798). Following...
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