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Macbeth Vs Beowulf

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The Illusion of a Perfect Hero
Actor Anson Mount once made an insightful observation, “all of us have a hero and a villain in us.” This is something that has been confirmed over time, across cultures, and is also corroborated in famous literary works such as Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf and William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Key characters in these epics often rose to the occasion and made a positive impact on the society with their exceptional bravery, selflessness and moral courage. There were also instances where the same characters didn’t exercise the best judgment. Although Beowulf had many more heroic moments than Macbeth and Macduff, each of them had their virtues and flaws that surfaced at different times and under different circumstances,
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Macbeth’s battlefield heroics were reported to King Duncan as, “But all’s too weak: / For brave Macbeth —well he deserves that name — / Disdaining fortune with his brandished steel, / … And fixed his head upon our battlements.” (1.2.9-23) It appeared that all odds were stacked against Macbeth as he faced the rebel Macdonwald, assisted by a strong Irish army. However, Macbeth proved too strong for the rebel as well as luck. He chopped the rebel with his sword and put his head on the castle wall. At another stage on the battlefield, Macbeth was referred as the husband of Bellona, the goddess of war. “Till that Bellona’s bridegroom, lapped in proof, / … Point against point, rebellious arm 'gainst arm, … The victory fell on us.” (1.2.52-59) Macbeth deflated the rebel’s arrogance by matching him shot for shot and ultimately leading to Scotland’s victory. Macbeth clearly distinguished himself as a great warrior, but his battlefield heroics did not carry over into heroic behavior off the battlefield. It is ironic that he, who had defended Duncan from traitors colluding with Irish and Norwegian armies, himself harbored traitorous thoughts. As he was contemplating assassinating Duncan, Macbeth was having trouble in justifying what he was about to do. “I am his kinsman and his subject, / Strong both against the…show more content…
Beowulf was stunningly brave, courageous and put his abilities in the service of others. However, he was too conceited and obsessed about his reputation. Macbeth was a brave warrior, but his Achilles heel, his ambition, turned him into a tyrant. Macduff loved his country and did his best to save it from a tyrant, but at the same time didn’t exercise good judgment in safeguarding his family. Rather than judging people and their actions purely in black and white terms, we should recognize that human beings are complex creatures and have lots of shades of gray. Each person has positive and negative attributes. Heroism in one dimension doesn’t carry over to other dimensions. Therefore, there is no such thing as a perfect hero or an absolute monster. Under the right circumstances, each of us can be a hero and in some other circumstances behave like a
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