Does Beowulf Evoke a Human Element That Allows the Reader to Associate

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Heather Monkman

Does Beowulf evoke a human element that allows the reader to associate with the plot? If so, then how does such humanity affect the story?

There is a human element in Beowulf that transcends time. It is a portrayal of emotions common to the human experience of life that allow Beowulf to evoke a response from all. The human element within the epic story of Beowulf is characterized by Hrothgar. Hrothgar is the most human character in the poem. He is the person with whom we can most easily identify. By not being afraid to hide his emotions in a society where it is a sign of weakness for a man to show his feelings, gives him perhaps not a heroic quality of his own , but a quality nonetheless – the quality of human nature. The virtues of a good warrior are wisdom and courage. A good king must possess not only these qualities, but he also must be concerned for the welfare of his people. Hrothgar possesses wisdom, but his courage is lacking. However upon closer inspection of the prose, one begins to see Hrothgar not as a coward, but as a symbol of basic human reaction. For example, when Grendel attacks the hall, all Hrothgar can do is hold his head in despair. While others react in violence when threatened, Hrothgar lacks the strength to do so. Although it is not a celebrated virtue of human nature, all can relate to the feeling of despair that arises when a positive solution to a negative situation is beyond one's immediate control/ In another situation, after Grendel's mother attacks the hall and escapes with the body of Esher, we see Hrothgar trembling "in anger and grief". When Beowulf comes to find out what's wrong, Hrothgar practically begs him to kill the monster. His grief, at this point, verges on hysteria. This point in the epic allows the readers to bring the story back to something that they can relate to, a focal point. By being able to tap into the feelings expressed by Hrothgar, one can truly understand how helpless this once...
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