Beowulf Research Paper

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Beowulf exemplifies epic poetry as defined by the epics Gilgamesh and Paradise Lost. There are a number of widely accepted characteristics of epic poetry including a grand setting, pertinence to celebrated characters of national significance, courageous and valorous deeds, a persistent style and tone, and the intervention of supernatural forces in human action.1 Though the features of the stories themselves differ greatly, the three stories’ poetic backbone contains the same basic principles of epic poetry. Beowulf, though many scholars argue, epitomizes all of the conventions and, therefore, can be classified as an epic. Perhaps the single biggest necessity of an epic is the epic hero itself. In the epic Gilgamesh, which predates Beowulf…show more content…
Gilgamesh is on a quest to achieve the personal task of obtaining immortality, contains superhuman qualities of strength, courage, and knowledge which he uses throughout his quest, and faces the monster Humbaba, unworldly opposition to prevent him from achieving his goal.2 These attributes help formulate a list of requirements of an epic hero; Beowulf meets all of the requirements on this list. His quests, including his quest for immortality and the defense of his people, are either for his own personal gain or the gain of his people. Secondly, the opposition he encounters on his quests, the monsters Grendel, She-Cat, and the fire-breathing dragon, is not of this world.3 Lastly, he has herculean qualities of strength, courage, and cunning, which play to his advantage throughout his quests.4 Another example of an epic hero is Satan in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Satan’s heroic qualities are disputed because his behavior in the end is sinful. In a critical paper, Nicole Smith defines Satan as an epic hero through a non-traditional…show more content…
Supernatural beings always interfere in an epic, whether they assist or hinder the quest of the epic hero. In Gilgamesh, the gods and goddesses of the dominant religion play major roles throughout the story. The goddess Ishtar provides some of the resistance for Gilgamesh’s quest, while the god Shamash helps him and Enkidu defeat Humbaba, the evil guardian of the Cedar Forest.13 Beowulf, too, embodies supernatural elements; however, they exist in a different way than in Gilgamesh. Grendel, the She-Cat, and the fire-breathing dragon are all negative aspects of the story; no supernatural elements help Beowulf in any way throughout his quests as they help Gilgamesh.14 Contrastingly, supernatural elements are present in every aspect of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. They do not make appearances because they are present throughout the entire poem. God and Satan’s presence is not only the main conflict of the story, but also is perhaps the best example of supernatural elements in any epic. The story’s plot splits its focus between God’s newest creation, Adam and Eve, and the efforts of Satan to overthrow God. This widespread supernatural activity satisfies the convention in Paradise Lost, proving the principle exists in epic poetry.15 Though they appear in many different ways, supernatural elements are prevalent in Beowulf, helping to quantify it as an

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