The Deadly Sins
While the epic Beowulf celebrates the deeds of the hero Beowulf, it more deeply reveals the malevolence of individual characters brought on specifically by three of the seven deadly sins.
Initially, Beowulfs possession of pride and greed is unnoticed and seems extraneous. *As time goes on, however, pride and greed become a main factor of Beowulfs demeanor and appear to be interminable. For instance, while introducing himself to the king, Beowulf enumerates his accomplishments, bragging that he is completely capable of presenting Grendel with his ultimate fate: death. Once Beowulf delivers Grendel to his conclusive demise, his pride seems to progress even further. While admirers may believe Beowulf fights for the common good, they are fooled, as the narrator states Beowulf / Longed only for fame (Raffel 52). While arriving at the mead hall, Beowulf is described as covered with glory for the daring / Battles he had fought (Raffel 54). This infinite desire for success encompasses Beowulf, turning him into a covetous, unstoppable force of determination. Furthermore, once Beowulf defeats the dragon, his final words fall nothing short of conceited, as he hopes sailors [will] see / This tower, and remember [his] name, and call it / Beowulfs tower, and boasts in the darkness (Raffel 60). Overall, Beowulfs obsession with success along with his plethora of pride eventually turns him into an avid, fame-hungry monster.
Not only does Beowulf possess a vice, but each and every character is endowed with some type of personal flaw. *Beowulf is not the only character to possess a serious vice; deep-seeded anger is threaded into Grendels being as well. Alienated from the majority, Grendels anger escalades because of the ruthless badgering from the men in the mead hall. The anger abounds, causing Grendel to be so set / On murder that no crime could ever be enough (Raffel 42). Grendels anger is assuredly controllable by neither Grendel himself nor the men in the mead hall. Granted, Grendel is able to control his actions. Nevertheless, his feelings are brought on by previous torment. The felonious acts of Grendel, caused by his pent-up anger, inflict much harm and create fear and danger for the people inside the hall. Grendel implores Beowulf during their battle, but is denied when his life is terminated and ergo his anger is finally put to rest.
Certainly, Grendel is not the only character possessing an angry mind. Beowulf also obtains an inner fury, causing him to be battle-hungry and vengeful. While fighting Grendels mother, Beowulf is in the same mindset that Grendel was while attacking the Danes and then ultimately fighting Beowulf himself. Beowulfs thirst for victory occupies his mind so much that if he thinks anything could possibly hinder his victory, his mind becomes replete with rage, bringing out his inner-demon. Once his supplies fail during the battle with Grendels mother, anger / [Doubles] his strength (Raffel 52), compelling him to release the toughness and fortitude of a monster, wresting Grendels mother to the ground. Given these facts, anger is certainly one of the distinguishing characteristics possessed in both Grendel and Beowulf; their irate attitudes cause them to express their anger in a violent, barbaric fashion.
The imperfections of Beowulf and Grendel define who they are and how they act. Beowulf is, on the surface, an epic about a hero performing miraculous deeds for people in need. However, plunging deep into the epic reveals the inner-makings of a person, showing their flaws in each and every way possible. *Beowulfs pride, greed, and anger become a controlling factor in his life just as anger does in Grendels life; these three grave sins bring out the malevolence in each and reveal how felon they actually are.
Raffel, Burton. From Beowulf. Trans. Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes: The British Tradition. Ed. Ellen Bowler, et al. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1999. 40-61. Print.