What evidence do you find in Beowulf of the importance placed on a person's public reputation?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A person’s public reputation is very important in Beowulf because people were known and judged by their deeds.

An example of the importance of reputation is shown when Beowulf first arrives at the hall.  He has to prove his worth and reputation.  This is not boasting, but a necessary ritual.

“What mighty things you've just said of Breca and his triumph, my dear Unferth, while you're drunk with beer! I say in truth that I have proved more might in the sea than any other man, and more endurance in the ocean….”  (Ch 8, p. 14)

Beowulf is accused of murdering his childhood friend, which would be a great insult to his reputation.  Yet he explains that his friend was foolish and his own negligence caused his death, and even though Beowulf was young, he tried to save his friend.  Due to Beowulf’s reputation of heroic deeds, he is accepted by the king and allowed to fight the monster Grendel to defend the hall.