Honors British Literature
January 30 2015
Beowulf, the Epic Hero
Beowulf is not a literary piece known for its depth nor is it a piece that is viewed as a literary masterpiece. The timeless story is most commonly known for being the first story to be written in the English language, which was highly innovative for the time in which it came because it began the paving of the road that is the English language. However, the story lacks innovation in the sense that the story doesn’t throw any curve balls or twists in plot, it is rather straight-forward and the hero always seems to come out victorious, just as predicted, until his death. Beowulf features a protagonist that follows the characteristics already defined by Aristotle when he described the basic features of the epic hero.
Aristotle defines the epic hero as a larger-than-life protagonist who has some quality about him or her (typically “him”), maybe more than one, that makes him superhuman. Beowulf’s such characteristics are his strength of 30 men, his incredible toughness, and various other abilities he has that are told in tales of his bravery. Beowulf also carries little to no flaws, and the story makes it quite evident that he can defeat any other human challenger.
Aristotle also defined the typical layout of the story of an epic hero. It begins with a challenge for the hero, then an adventure for him, followed by a trip into some form of underworld, and ending with the dramatic and heroic death of the hero. Beowulf follows these guidelines perfectly. The story begins with a call for a hero to kill the pestly beast Grendel, which Beowulf responds to and executes perfectly. Then for the trip into the underworld, Beowulf swims to the bottom of the bottomless pit to face Grendel’s mother, the Troll-Wife. He kills the Troll-Wife, and is called to another problem: He must slay a dragon that seeks to kill the stealer of one of his treasures. He goes to kill the dragon, and...
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