Beowulf: Keenest or Deserving of Praise

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Questioned Motivations
The epic poem Beowulf translated by E. Talbot Donaldson has a great sense of heroism and bravery throughout. Though the main character Beowulf is a noble warrior, his motives are questioned as to whether he is “keenest for praise” or “deserving of praise”. Beowulf is idolized in the poem which speaks of his great courage. However, are his acts of valor for his own glory and well-being, or for the safety of others? As the audience reads Beowulf, the more indecisive we become on whether the Geat hero is acting out of want of fame or desire to do genuine good.

The first demonstration of time where Beowulf shows he is in eager want of praise is when he says, “’I thought quickly to bind him on his deathbed with my hard grasp, so that because of my hand-grip he should lie struggling for life-,’”(Donaldson 954-955). As the reader understands Beowulf’s words it is seen that he may not be as humble as one had thought. His exaggeration of the event shows that he talks himself up in order to be seen as even more courageous then he already is. His quickness to describe his strength in battle comes off as self-absorbed. A second demonstration of Beowulf’s glorification of events and how he is “most eager for fame” is when the poet writes, “’I shall get glory, or death will take me,’” (1497). Beowulf seems as if he is saying without gaining glory then he would want death to take him as if he is so humiliated he could not live. Beowulf comes off as arrogant and that if he does not get what he wants and what he feels he deserves then he could not bear to live without it. Beowulf knows that all already recognize him as a courageous warrior but in his eyes that just isn’t enough without having all the glory he would like. Though many examples can be used to defend the statement that Beowulf is acting for the sake of his own glory and praise, I believe that Beowulf is truly acting out of concern for the safety of the citizens of Herot and other...
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