The Warrior Fame Shame Ethic In Beowulf

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade November 2001

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Beowulf and Song of Roland are literary works that reveal the significance of warrior ethics and ideals. Although set in different times and representing different cultures, the warrior ethic of fame or shame pervades both Beowulf and Song of Roland. Heroism, honor, bravery, and strength shape men deserving of fame. Cowardice, betrayal, and weakness cover men in a thick cloud of shame.

In Beowulf, the bloodthirsty monster Grendel terrorizes the Danish mead hall, Heorot. It seems that no warrior in Denmark can challenge the beast, and the Danes continue to suffer greatly. Word of this plight spreads, and it soon reaches a Geatish warrior named Beowulf. Beowulf is so confident in his own strength and skill that he, without hesitation, decides he will sail to Denmark to battle Grendel. As a warrior, Beowulf is inclined to take the challenge and prove his bravery and might. To deny the challenge would be shameful and his heroic reputation would be forever tarnished.

King Hrothgar of Denmark venerates Beowulf when he arrives for coming to the aid of the Danes. Yet Unferth, a Danish warrior, feels his own reputation is threatened by Beowulf's presence. In an attempt to uphold his own appearance and defend his own fame, Unferth disparages Beowulf's tails of greatness. Beowulf naturally defends his reputation. "However it was my luck to kill, sword in hand, nine sea-monsters. I cannot remember hearing of a harder battle by night anywhere in the world, or of anybody in worse danger at sea than I was."(Beowulf, p.40) Beowulf goes on to claim, "It is a fact that Grendel would never have done such damage to your kind, nor wreaked such havoc in Heorot, if you had the fighting spirit with which you credit yourself."(Beowulf, p.40)...

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