How does Beowulf embody the ideals of conduct in the Anglo-Saxon culture in the epic Beowulf?I need at least 4 of his virtues with the part or parts where the virtue is displayed.

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karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Epics reveal much about the culture from which they arise, and in particular, the epic hero demonstrates to readers what traits and virtues were most highly prized in that culture. Beowulf is no different. In the epic poem, our titular epic hero embodies all of the best qualities of Anglo-Saxon warrior culture.

As the epic hero, Beowulf is a larger-than-life figure with superhuman strength and bravery. This tells us that the Anglo-Saxon culture celebrated warriors who were physically adept as well as courageous. These characters are willing to put their own lives on the line to protect others. We recognize, of course, these same qualities as heroic in our culture. Beowulf fights two of the most fearsome monsters in the world in Grendel and his mother. He also willingly leaves his homeland to go to Hrothgar's kingdom with his men to try to save that land from Grendel's violence. These examples in the poem clearly demonstrate his physical strength and his bravery.

Further, Beowulf follows the code of comitatus, a Germanic term that basically means an agreement between a lord and the men who serve him. It is like an earlier version of chivalry. The lord, in this case Beowulf, and his men enter into a spoken contract under which it is understood that the lord will protect the men and the men will loyally serve their lord. Beowulf asks his men to accompany him to Hrothgar's kingdom, and they agree. When Beowulf volunteers to fight Grendel, he asks Hrothgar to take care of his men should Beowulf be killed in battle. Beowulf also acts as the lesser party in terms of comitatus when he approaches Hrothgar's kingdom; since this is Hrothgar's jurisdiction, Beowulf must ask permission to come ashore and to fight the monster. Hrothgar allows him to make his case, and Beowulf gives this king his heroic resumé. Hrothgar then agrees to let Beowulf fight Grendel in Hrothgar's mead hall. Beowulf is not afraid to flaunt his accomplishments, as he is proud of them, but he also defers to Hrothgar's authority.

At the end of the epic, Beowulf has been king of his own land for years, and a dragon threatens his kingdom. He volunteers, though he is much older, to defend his people against the dragon. He is mortally wounded, but one of his men steps up and kills the dragon, fulfilling his promise to be loyal to his lord. The men also build Beowulf an elaborate funeral pyre and a monument in his memory to pay tribute to their fallen king. In these examples, both parties are upholding their ends of the comitatus agreement. Beowulf is also still showing himself to be fearless, courageous, and willing to put his life on the line for his people. 

Based on his bravery, strength, and loyalty, Beowulf exhibits many admirable traits valued by Anglo-Saxon warrior culture.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon poem in which the epic hero Beowulf saves Hrothgar and his people from the tribulations which had beset them. Beowulf is a conquering hero, and he embodies, as your question states, many of the ideals reflected in his culture.  He is selfless, proud, brave, and loyal.

Beowulf is selfless, and he demonstrates that quality when he hears about Hrothgar--in a country across the dangerous sea--and decides to help him simply because he knows he can.  Beowulf understands he may not return from this fight that is not really his; yet he selects a few soldiers, equips himself and his men, and he makes the perilous crossing without any expectations from the people at the other end of his journey. 

Beowulf is proud, and he demonstrates that quality when he meets Hrothgar and offers himself as a protector and defender of this king and his people.  He is neither fawning nor boastful (though Unferth would probably disagree).  He states his credentials and offers his services.  Later, when Hrothgar rewards him for his actions, Beowulf is suitably gracious and humble, proud to have been the one to rid them of this terror.  When he returns home, he tells his story without embellishment (well, perhaps just a little) and demonstrates his pride by honoring his own king.

Beowulf is brave.  A marauding monster, Grendel, must be killed, and Beowulf chooses to engage in battle without any weapons, just as Grendel fights.  Their literal hand-to-hand combat is epic, and Beowulf wins by tearing Grendel's arm out of his socket.  When Grendel's mother seeks to avenge her son's death, Beowulf follows her to the bottom of the ocean to fight another epic battle.  More than fifty years later, King Beowulf fights a huge dragon virtually alone and virtually empty-handed. 

Beowulf is loyal.  Before he leaves to kill Grendel, Beowulf asks permission of his king--to whom he owes his allegiance.  When he returns, laden with gifts which were bestowed upon him by a grateful Hrothgar, Beowulf gives a portion to his king, as was his due. 

Beowulf has other virtues, of course, and he embodies the best of Anglo-Saxon ideals.