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How Beowulf Compares to Achilles and Patroclus

Updated on January 5, 2018
Patrick Patrick profile image

Patrick has been working as a freelance writer for the past 3 years




In literature, a hero is an individual that is usually admired and emulated. In any given society, those regarded as heroes are idealized for such values as courage, bravely, outstanding achievements and or noble qualities they posses. As such, they stand out from the rest. In critical situations (events that may negatively affect people in a society) or, heroes demonstrate their courage and nobility, and are thus the embodiment of ideals that the culture in question stands for. Changes therefore play a significant role in bringing out the qualities of an individual that makes them a hero figure when no one else is willing to stand up against the changes affecting the people in general.


Like Patroclus and Achilles, Beowulf was brave, fearless and proud. According to the poem “Beowulf” he is presented as a strong, brave and courageous individual from a young age. Apart from being strong and dominant in sports, he is described as having been proud and brave to extent that he goes to fight and defeat Grendel and Grendel's mother. This type of pride and bravely can be seen in other heroes as Achilles and Patroclus. A great warrior, Achilles is proud of the fact that Trojans are afraid of him. He is brave enough to face his opponents face on, and this is one of the reasons he goes to fight Hector and kills him. He lives for glory and honor, and this is one of the main reasons as to why he is upset when Agamemnon takes away his prize (Brises), awarded to him in recognition of his valor. Bravery and pride can also be seen in Patroclus who has been described as having had lust for combat. Leading the Myrmidons, Patroclus pursued the Trojans as far as the gates of Troy, killing about 53 of the enemies before being killed for failing to listen to Achilles orders to break off the combat. The three heroes are therefore shown to have shared a number of characteristics, which made them outstanding from the rest.




Some differences can also be seen between Beowulf and the other two. From what we learn about his life as a youth and then as an older man, his experiences (major fights with the monsters) see him transforming from an individual who seeks personal honor, recognition and glory to a king who genuinely cares about his people. As confident young man, he faces Grendel without any weapon to protect the people and is granted the glory of the win. This allows him to grow in to a confident man who is ready to protect the people. When he is older and a leader of the people, he feels that it is his place to fight the dragon in order to protect the people. When he is about to face the dragon, Beowulf says that he has to fight, even in his old age because he is a leader of the people. This aspect of maturity and personal growth through the various experiences in life sets him apart from the other two heroes, who largely focused on winning for their personal glory in order to remain the books of history. This is why Achilles decides to withdraw from fighting when his prize is taken away by Agamemnon (Achilles does this to protect his honor). On the other hand, to seek personal glory and recognition, Patroclus fails to listen to Achilles’ warning to stop driving the Trojans back to their city. Pride overcomes reason during this conflict, which results in his death.




Although we see a number of characteristics that make the three different from the rest in their societies, in that they are brave, courageous, fearless and even proud, growth and maturity through various experiences makes Beowulf more mature and caring of his people. Unlike the other two, he is no longer concerned about personal glory and honor, but rather about the people he is the leader to. Achilles and Patroclus do not get to this point, and are only more concerned about their personal achievements as being better than everyone else.

© 2018 Patrick


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