Is Beowulf a typical epic?
Beowulf is the one of the preeminent epics. One can base the identification of Beowulf as an epic simply by its adherence to characteristics typical of the epic.
1. Characters are beings of national importance and historical or legendary significance.
Beowulf, the character, is both legendary and nationally important.His defeat of Grendel and his mother prove his importancee to the Danes and the reasoning behind his name going down in history.
2. The setting is grand in scope, covering nations, the world, or even the universe.
The setting of the text takes place of great distances. Beowulf travels from his home (the Geatlands) to the Danelands and back.
3. Action consists of deeds of great valor and courage.
Beowulf's battles with Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon all prove his great valor and courage. Beowulf fights Grendel with no weapons (proving his aristeia and arete). He is the only one willing to go into the lair of the hag (Grendel's mother). Finally, he fights the dragon even knowing he will die.
4. Supernatural forces interest themselves in human action and often intervene directly.
Beowulf believes in wyrd (fate). Through this, he believes that God already knows when he will die. This said, Beowulf enters into each and every battle without fear of death--knowing God will intervene upon behalf of the one most worthy.
In the end, given the texts support and inclusion of the characteristics of the epic, Beowulf is an epic text.