What is an example of fortitude and wisdom in Beowulf?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf is replete with examples of fortitude and wisdom; most of them, of course, concern the hero, Beowulf.

The first dramatic example of these two characteristics happens when Beowulf fights Grendel. The wisdom is evident when Beowulf decides to fight Grendel without any weapons, man-to-man, because it is only fitting that, since Grendel uses no weapons, Beowulf should also fight bare-handed. This is a wise choice, as we discover when Grendel attacks the mead-hall. He has cast a spell upon himself which prevents any weapon from being able to harm him.

There was something they could have not known at the time,     
That not blade on earth, no blacksmith’s art
Could ever damage their demon opponent.
He had conjured the harm from the cutting edge
Of every weapon.

If Beowulf had not made that choice, he would have discovered--too late--that his weapons were useless.

Beowulf's fortitude is on display when the two of them fight. Beowulf grasps Grendel so fiercely that the only way Grendel can escape is by leaving behind his arm and hand after his arm is wrenched out of its socket. 

Then he who had harrowed the hearts of men
With pain and affliction in former times
And had given offense also to God                               
Found that his bodily powers had failed him.
Hygelac’s kinsman kept him helplessly
Locked in a handgrip. As long as either lived
He was hateful to the other. The monster’s whole
Body was in pain, a tremendous wound
Appeared on his shoulder. Sinews split
And the bone-lappings burst. Beowulf was granted
The glory of winning; Grendel was driven
Under the fen banks, fatally hurt,
To his desolate lair. 
As the story progresses, of course, Beowulf demonstrates both wisdom and fortitude in many ways. He wisely pays tribute to his king, sharing the glory with him as every good thane should. He is able to defeat Grendel's mother with her own sword when it looks as though he is doomed to a watery grave. Even at the end, Beowulf displays both wisdom and fortitude in his battle with the dragon.
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