Beowulf: The Author’s Insight to Characters in the Story
Beowulf, the longest surviving poem in Old English and one of the earliest European epics written in the vernacular, tells of the journeys of the fictional hero Beowulf. The first part of the story tells of Beowulf's adventures in Denmark, where he battled the monstrous creature Grendel and his mother (also a creature) on behalf of King Hrothgar, the King of Danes. The second part of the story narrates his later life, including his fight with a fire-dragon while he reigned as King of Geatland. A translator of Beowulf, Burton Raffel, once remarked that "of all the many-sided excellences" of the poem, one of the most satisfying "is the poet's insight into people." With this statement, I agree. The poet does a great job dyfying the emotions, nature, and emotional struggles of the many characters in this story. He gives insight to the knowledge of the Anglo-Saxons at that time. At the beginning of The Coming of Beowulf, the author writes that “…the living sorrow of Helfdane’s son [Hrothgar]/Simmered, bitter and fresh, and no wisdom/or strength could break it: that agony hung/ on king and people alike…”(104-107) This tremendous pain was due to Grendel’s many years of attacks. It shows that the King was not alone in his greif and that just as we do today, the Anglo-Saxons mourned for their dead men. Later on as he describes Beowulf he writes Beowulf is the “..Strongest of the Geats-greater/and stronger than anyone in this world.” (110/111) “..he was loved by the Geats…”(118)
“..the bravest and best of the Geats…”(121)
Also, throughout the story, Beowulf not only retells stories of his adventures but he boasts, sometimes going on and on about himself. Unlike Beowulf, Hrothgar is not as brave. He wishes to save his people from this monster but he is aged and more emotional than Beowulf. In most of the story Hrothgar is either sharing his wisdom with Beowulf or grieving. This wasn’t typical of many kings but...
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