Beowulf

Contrasting Characters in Beowulf 12th Grade

Within the first six hundred lines of Beowulf, the poet introduces several characters – Hrothgar, Wulfgar and Unferth – who are juxtaposed against Beowulf to not only glorify the protagonist, but also illustrate the heroic codes of the time.

Hrothgar’s portrayal by the poet as a generous and “good” king, yet at the same time distressed with the problem of Grendel, stands in contrast with Beowulf’s merciless and warrior-like persona. The poet initially describes Hrothgar’s accomplishments majestically, where the “fortunes of war” (line 64) has “favored” (line 64) Hrothgar. However, it seems that Hrothgar, who may have been a mighty warrior and king once, is no longer at the peak of his power. His generosity of dispensing the “rings and torques” (line 81) and other “God-given goods” (line 72) on a regular basis to his people reaches a point where he has been given the name as “the giver of rings” (line 353). This fact seems to further imply that to a certain extent, Hrothgar retains the loyalty of his subjects through riches. The later description of the king’s powerlessness against Grendel puts Hrothgar in a position close to helpless pity in the eyes of readers. The poet depicts the difficult times to be “heart-breaking for the...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 741 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4429 literature essays, 1449 sample college application essays, 183 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in