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...

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