Is Beowulf a better king or warrior?

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Beowulf is a good king, but a better warrior. He is the finest example we have in the poem of both roles. Indeed, it is clear that being a great king entails being a great warrior in the society of the Geats and the Danes. Hrothgar has failed in the...

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Beowulf is a good king, but a better warrior. He is the finest example we have in the poem of both roles. Indeed, it is clear that being a great king entails being a great warrior in the society of the Geats and the Danes. Hrothgar has failed in the respect of being a great warrior. He was once a great warrior, but now he can no longer protect his people. His weakness forces him to rely on Beowulf to provide security.

At the beginning of the poem, Beowulf fulfils all the criteria for a great warrior and epic hero. He is young and nobly born. He is supremely strong and brave. He actively seeks out the opportunity for glory. Even his boastfulness and arrogance in brandishing Grendel's arm as a trophy are in the tradition of the great warrior. Achilles would undoubtedly have done the same.

We do not know the details of Beowulf's long and peaceful rule over Geatland, only that he dies protecting the Geats from a dragon. It appears that, even at an advanced age, he is still the bravest warrior among the Geats. Only Wiglaf is even brave enough to stand beside him. After his death, the mourning of the Geats is somewhat selfish and cowardly in tone. They are afraid that, without Beowulf to protect them, they will be vulnerable to attack by surrounding tribes. It is clear, therefore, that Beowulf's effectiveness as a king always rested on his prowess as a warrior. He has been a good king principally because he was the greatest, most feared, and most esteemed warrior of his age.

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