Beowulf Vs MacBeth Who Is The True Hero
Mr. Spencer Brown
17 November 2014
Who’s the True Leader? Beowulf vs. Macbeth
A true leader needs to be a hero, and a hero is defined as “a man with distinguished courage and ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities” (Hero 1). Having courage alone cannot make a man a hero or a true leader. A hero needs to use his courage and action in consistent commitment to the greater and higher good. In this paper, it is argued that Beowulf is a true leader and better hero than Macbeth because he has both courage and a consistent commitment to the higher good, while Macbeth falls short of being a true leader because he is courageous but does not possess unfailing commitment to the higher good. Beowulf acts in a courageous manner all through his life, offering an ideal example of what courage entails. Beowulf initially appeared as a boy who has encountered the ocean, “to be a match for Grendel and settle the outcome in single combat” (Heaney 29). Moreover, Beowulf points out that he is undertaking this to “perform to the uttermost what the Danes want or perish in the attempt” (Heaney 43). In fighting with Grendel, Beowulf is undertaking a difficult and dangerous task with a singular focus and intention to achieve his desires, which is the fulfillment of the wishes of Danes. He is so committed to the Dane’s cause that he is willing to face the very real possibility of his own demise for them. This is indeed an act of real courage. Similar types of courageous acts can be seen throughout Beowulf’s life, starting from his fighting with Grendel, to his fighting with the mother of Grendel, to the last and ultimate fight between him and the dragon. Just before this final battle, Beowulf senses his death but still goes ahead to attack the dragon, because according to him, this is the only way through which he can offer protection to his people. The willingness that Beowulf has to sacrifice his life by fighting with the selfless intention of gaining something for others which he holds so close to his heart, to offer protection to his people, is indeed a real exhibition of courage and a clear indication that Beowulf is a true leader. On the other hand, Macbeth also shows courage, but he shows it in an ironic manner, by killing the king. Initially, when the idea of killing the king comes to Macbeth’s mind, he describes this idea by pointing out that, “that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at ribs” (Shakespeare 1.3.147 – 149). This is an indication that the mere thought of murdering the king terrifies him. When the thought of Macbeth becoming king comes to Lady Macbeth’s mind, she refers to it as “what thou wouldst highly” (Shakespeare 1.5.20-21). At this point, it is clearly indicated by Lady Macbeth that the throne is what Macbeth wants most dearly. Therefore, at the end of Act 1, he points out that, “I am settled, and bend up…each corporal agent to this terrible feat” (Shakespeare 1.7.92-93), this is an indication that Macbeth has overcome the fear he had for murdering the king, and has made a decision to perform this difficult task with an intention of achieving what he really desires, the throne. However, even if Macbeth shows that he is courageous, this does not portray him as being a true leader since his aim is really only his own personal gain. In the final analysis, Beowulf proves to be a truer leader than Macbeth because Beowulf courageously fought throughout his entire life with the intention of protecting his people. Conversely, Macbeth finds the courage to kill the king but does so with only the intention of personal gain, the throne, and this selfish aim shows that he lacks true leadership.
Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf: A new verse translation. New York: Alexander books, 2012. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. New York: First Avenue Editions, 2014. Print.
Hero. Thefreedictionary, 2014. 17 November 2014, <http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Hero>
Cited: Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf: A new verse translation. New York: Alexander books, 2012. Print. Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. New York: First Avenue Editions, 2014. Print. Hero. Thefreedictionary, 2014. 17 November 2014,