Beowulf, The Class Example of An Epic – Literature Essay
The story Beowulf is a classic example of an epic. An epic is a long narrative poem that relates the great deeds of a larger-than-life hero who embodies the values of a particular society. The tone of an epic is
serious and uses language that is magnificent. Many elements in Beowulf display the common characteristics of what makes a story an epic.
First of all, every story that is an epic has a hero who strongly identifies with a particular people or society. In Beowulf our hero Beowulf identifies with the Anglo-Saxons. One belief they have is bravery. Beowulf and his men exhibit this when they hear of Grendel’s deadly attacks on Herot hall and henceforth prepare a ship to sail to Denmark. Another one of their beliefs is loyalty towards their family, clan, or kingdom. Their need of loyalty stems from a need to protect one another. Beowulf shows loyalty when he helps the kingdom that his father had served. Additionally, Beowulf displays his loyalty to his people when he states “my people have said / …that my duty was to go to the Danes’ / Great king” (ll 149, 150, 151) while he is talking to King Hrothgar.
Furthermore, the hero in an epic performs great deeds in battle or undertakes an extraordinary journey. Sometimes gods or other fantastical creatures are part of the action, too. Beowulf performs many fantastic feats, including fighting Grendel and then Grendel’s mom. When he remarks that he hears “…the monster’s scorn of men / Is so great that he needs no weapons…” (ll 167, 168) Beowulf announces “Nor will I… / My hands / Alone shall fight for me” (ll 169, 172, 173). Although Grendel is extremely powerful and dulls all weapons useless, Beowulf is still able to defeat him.
In addition, epics use heightened language and their setting is either broad or sweeping. The language usage in Beowulf is incredibly sharp. A good example comes when the author refers to Grendel’s terrorizing attacks as “Twelve winters of grief for Hrothgar, king / Of the Danes, sorrow heaped at his door / By hell forged hands (ll 62, 63, 64). The setting of Beowulf is broad as Beowulf goes many places. He competes against Brecca in the deepest seas then departs to Denmark in order to battle Grendel. Next, he proceeds to Grendel’s mom’s terrible home to overcome her too. In his last battle, Beowulf heads to the tower under the rocky cliffs to fight the dragon.
In conclusion Beowulf has every aspect of an epic. Without one of them, it would not be an epic. All of these characteristics together contribute to this story classifying as an epic. Therefore, with the above evidence, Beowulf is an epic in every way.