The Importance Of Pride In The Epic Of Beowulf

1652 Words 7 Pages
In the Epic of Beowulf, Beowulf’s confidence undergoes an evolution. He soon battles Grendel with firm self-confidence. Later, when he fights Grendel’s mother, this confidence enlarges and morphs into the furious aggression of pride. By the time Beowulf engages in his last battle, he exhibits arrogance, if not hubris. This excessive pride is Beowulf’s unchecked, rising confidence that leads to his ultimate downfall. In other words, his “overweening ambition” is his fatal flaw (hamartia). Yet, as the story makes clear, Beowulf’s hamartia is not only ultimately a heroic flaw, but also his greatest asset. When Beowulf is young, his confidence suits his youthful physical agility. As he grows older, he refuses to adjust his confidence level to match …show more content…
During this period, he reigns as king and “[grows] old and wise” (Beowulf 2209). If he was in his mid-twenties when he fought the previous two monsters, he would be around seventy-five years old now. Despite his agedness, he insists on combatting the dragon – alone (Beowulf 2644). By this point, Beowulf’s hamartia is sheer hubris. Even the elderly Hrothgar delegated the duty of killing Grendel to Beowulf. Beowulf, instead of delegating the duty of killing the dragon to some more youthful and agile warrior, haughtily takes on the task himself. Even before Beowulf goes to attack the dragon, he is described in this way:
Yet the prince of the rings was too proud [emphasis added] to line up with a large
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The Beowulf poet uses imagery, particularly in the action scenes, to call attention to the ferocity of Beowulf. For example, when Beowulf attacks Grendel, the poet effectively sets the scene with visual descriptors. Grendel is depicted with the following, “Every bone in his body/quailed and recoiled” (Beowulf 752-3). It aids the reader in imagining the irony of the terrifying monster as being terrified himself. Seeing Grendel’s fear lends even more confidence to Beowulf, and he becomes emboldened to continue the clash. The poet also incorporates auditory imagery. Grendel lets out a “God-cursed scream” (Beowulf 785) and the mead hall clatters and hammers (Beowulf 769) as the two antagonists “[stumble] in fury” (Beowulf 768). At last, Grendel is described as being “manacled tight” by Beowulf (Beowulf 788). The reader is then given some of the most explicit lines of the poem: “Sinews split/and the bone-lappings burst” (Beowulf 816-17). Clearly, the poet guides the audience’s imagination with imagery, perhaps to point out Beowulf’s ever-growing confidence. Seeing Grendel’s “sinews split” and his “bone-lappings burst” gives him the impetus to keep on forging ahead toward victory. This mentally reinforces Beowulf’s confidence and directly intertwines itself with his

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