Give an analysis of Beowulf as an epic.

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jgoulden eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An epic is a story centered on a heroic figure who partakes in a sequence of exceptional events and "Beowulf," the most important work of Old English literature, certainly qualifies. The central characters of this epic are defined by their status and their actions. For instance, King Hrothgar is know for both his wealth and influence and for his leadership on the battlefield - including his policy of leaving the "common man" untouched by warfare, which brings him great honor. Prince Beowulf, the central figure, proves his worth as defender of the Danes as he combats and defeats Grendel (which brings him power, wealth, and honor), Grendel's mother, and the Dragon. By contrast, Grendel is represented as having no honor or wealth, which defines Grendel as evil and corrupt. This type of contrast is typical of epics. Another contrast in Beowulf is the distinction between Man and Wild; Grendel's wild and evil nature is defeated by the goodness and purity of Beowulf's civilized ways. These are just a few of the themes in Beowulf that are typical of an epic.