Describe the qualities in the young Beowulf and later in Wiglaf, that make them stand out as warrior heroes
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'What kind of men are you who arrive rigged out for combat in coats of mail?' Describe the qualities in the young Beowulf, and later in Wiglaf, that make them stand out as warrior heroes. Beowulf's sea journey and arrival into Denmark is expressed with potent dramatic splendour and magnitude. The immediate realisation of our being introduced to a character of great consequence is shared by the Shieldings' watchman and highlighted with Heaney's colourful adjectives and powerful imagery. Before Beowulf has even spoken or been addressed, we have heard that 'there was no one else like him alive / In his day he was the mightiest man on earth high-born and powerful.' Travelling on a boat 'loaded' with 'a cargo of weapons' and 'shining war-gear' is indicative of a feat these men are about to undertake. When the watchman witnesses their arrival, he is astonished most by Beowulf's physical appearance: 'Nor have I seen a mightier man at arms on this earth'. Throughout the poem this is a recurring theme as we are delivered countless images of his physical strength including his 'handgrip' 'harder' than that of 'any man on the face
This form of introduction is echoed later when the young Wiglaf is described as 'a son of Weohstan's' 'well regarded' and 'related to Aelfhere'. In terms of personal reputation, we understand that Beowulf has already established an element of fame within Geatland when he relays to the king: 'I have suffered extremes and avenged the Geats' his modesty is apparent as he resists the need to elaborate on his acts of heroism confining himself only to convey the essential details. He only begins to boast of his accomplishments in a swimming contest against Breca when Unferth questions his motives for participating. Unferth is presented as a foil to the heroic Beowulf, the poet informs us that he is 'sick with envy' but his own bitterness and inferiority is exposed and Beowulf's virtues accentuated as the latter is able to articulate an intelligent and composed response: 'it was mostly beer that was doing the talking' 'I was the strongest swimmer of all'. Again Heaney encompasses powerful adjectives, 'perishing', 'deep boiled', 'mangled' into Beowulf's speech, closely adhering to the traits of Anglo-Saxon poetry and successfully winning over the reader and ensuring 'the crowd was happy'.
Recognition of the young warriors' heroic deeds and attitudes is not limited to the poet and the modern day reader or Anglo-Saxon listener, the poet assures us that Beowulf was rewarded for his actions, 'furnished' with 'twelve treasures' 'gold regalia' and many other gifts by the king. However, it is important to consider heroism as being subjective and that it should be measured within its context both in terms of history and religion. Whilst Pagan beliefs would have viewed the vengeful and murderous nature of the heroes necessary to conform to the heroic code, such behaviour severely contravenes the principles of Christianity. We must also understand that Beowulf as with all the warriors illustrated within the poem, were human and thus fallible, their being at the mercy of God's will or fate. We must also reserve judgement for the young Wiglaf as we have yet to see him in battle alone and whilst the limited behaviours we do observe in him are commendable, we cannot assess him in the same way as Beowulf whose character has been developed to a much greater extent within the poem. ?? ?? ?? ?? Gemma Schuck AS English Literature Beowulf - Assignment One
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