According to Beowulf, from the epic Beowulf, what are the characteristics of a good king?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Chapter thirty-seven of Beowulf defines what the epic hero believes to be the characteristics of a good king. Beowulf tells Wiglaf, upon his death bed, what a good king will do (or does). 

“There was...none at all, who would bring war-mates against me and threaten me with horrors. I observed social custom in my home, and cared for my own with justice. I did not seek feuds, nor have I falsely sworn any oath...[and] I did not kill my kinsmen!"

It is in this paragraph that Beowulf defines the very specific characteristics of a good king. 

1) No other kings tried to bring war against Beowulf or his kingdom. 

2) Beowulf, as a good king, was always true to the customs of the Danes. 

3) Beowulf, as a good king, was just (correct and lawful) in his laws.

4) A good king makes no promises he cannot keep and does not seek out battles (feuds). 

5) Beowulf, as a good king, never killed any of his own people or family. 


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