Beowulf Characteristics

What are the major characteristics of Beowulf?

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Beowulf’s personal characteristics include the heroic traits of loyalty, honor, bravery, faith, and superhuman strength. He demonstrates his sense of honor and his loyalty to Hrothgar by volunteering to kill Grendel and then Grendel’s mother. He proves his bravery by battling these two monsters and, at the end his life, the dragon. His strength can also be seen in these battles, as he rips off Grendel’s arm with his bare hands and holds his breath for a superhuman length of time in Grendel’s mother’s underwater lair. Beowulf demonstrates his faith by giving thanks to God for his victories.

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Hollis Sanders eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Beowulf is depicted as the most ideal of leaders. His most immediately recognizable characteristics are his prodigious strength and endurance, which more often than not fall directly into the category of the superhuman. Indeed, he is able to defeat the vile Grendel single-handedly and go on to defeat Grendel's mother immediately afterward. He does all of this for his people and purely on a volunteer basis, demonstrating his steadfast devotion to his people and his courage in the face of danger.

Furthermore, Beowulf even fights a dragon at the end of his life, against incredible odds, going above and beyond the call of duty for his people. Perhaps most telling of his character is his unfaltering faith, as he thanks and consults God in all that he does, asking that he show him the right course of action and give him the strength needed to pursue justice.

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Queen Langosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Obviously, the defining characteristic of Beowulf is his bravery, and his strong desire to demonstrate it to others. He travels to the land of the Danes in large part to prove his courage by destroying Grendel, and he then fearlessly pursues Grendel's mother into her underwater lair. Even late in his life, he dies fighting against a dragon that is terrorizing his homeland. Beowulf is also very concerned about kinship, loyalty, and honor, all of which are related to the self-sacrificial nature of his courage. For all this, Beowulf is also a man of deep personal faith. Before his battle with Grendel, he offers a prayer: "May the Divine Lord in His wisdom grant the glory of victory to whichever side he sees fit." After the fight with the monster, he gives credit to God, who, he says, "allowed" him to kill the monster, who is, not incidentally, descended from Cain. So Beowulf is defined by his martial valor, his sense of honor and loyalty, and by his religious faith.

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clairewait eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Beowulf possesses many great heroic qualities:

  • Inhuman strength: he is able to defeat Grendel by ripping his arm off; he is able to defeat Grendel's mother by holding his breath an insane length of time; he is known for this great strength in battle as well as sport competition.
  • Loyalty: he is loyal to King Hrothgar- who once saved his father - evidenced by his arrival to kill the monsters threatening Herot; loyal to his own king (evidenced by bringing the gifts from Hrothgar back home); loyal to his own men - evidenced by his decision to stay with them and sleep in the same place rather than a place of honor.
  • Courage: Beowulf never thinks twice about fighting the monsters that, until his arrival, have done nothing but kill those who came before him - evidence of his courage can be found throughout the text.
  • Faith/Gratitude: Beowulf frequently references giving glory to "God" or the "Lord" after a victory; the traditionally paegan tale passed down orally was finally written by a Christian monk (scholars believe) so the faith in God element was likely added as a means of spreading Christianity - it is there, nonetheless.

There are certainly others, but I'd say these are the easiest to find examples of throughout the text.

Here is a video about the charaters of Beowulf, started at the section pertaining to Shield Sheafson for your convenience:

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anything00 | Student

Human Mightier than any man KingPowerful Serves his people Loyal to king Hero Ruthless to his enemies Good fighter Strong Brave Confident Has a dad Fearless Nobel He has allies Proud Generous He has friends Uses weapons Wears Armor Mercenary Loves Treasure Believes in fate Warrior Mighty Courage Faith Gratitude

Here are some. Hope it helps

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badrlaw | Student

Beowulf, like so many heroes, is described as a great fighter and a man of tremendous strength.  He is brave, and he has self confidence bordering on insanity.  He chooses to fight Grendel unarmed and without any protection because he has total confidence in his own strength.  Also like many other heroes, Achilles in particular, he is boastful and hubris is one of his primary weaknesses.

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