Search Menu

Contents

Unferth

Unferth

Unferth’s challenge to Beowulf’s honor differentiates him from Beowulf and helps to reveal some of the subtleties of the heroic code that the warriors must follow. Unferth is presented as a lesser man, a foil for the near-perfect Beowulf. (A foil is a character whose traits contrast with and thereby accentuate those of another character.) The bitterness of Unferth’s chiding of Beowulf about his swimming match with Breca clearly reflects his jealousy of the attention that Beowulf receives. It probably also stems from his shame at being unable to protect Heorot himself—he is clearly not the sort of great warrior whom legend will remember. While boasting is a proper and acceptable form of self-assertion, Unferth’s harsh words show that it ought not to be bitter or disparaging of others. Rather than heroism, Unferth’s blustering reveals pride and resentment. Later, Unferth’s gift of his sword for Beowulf’s fight against Grendel’s mother heals Unferth’s breach of hospitality, but it does little to improve his heroic status. Unlike Beowulf, Unferth is clearly afraid to fight the monster himself.

More characters from Beowulf

Take the Analysis of Major Characters Quick Quiz

Take a quiz on this section
Take the Analysis of Major Characters Quick Quiz

TAKE THE QUIZ
+
#

ANALYSIS OF MAJOR CHARACTERS QUICK QUIZ

Beowulf is a hero in youth because he is strong and brave, but why is he a hero as an older man?
Because he’s given special powers by the dragon
Because of his sense of honor and responsibility
Take the Analysis of Major Characters Quick Quiz
TAKE THE QUIZ

Analysis of Major Characters Quick QUIZ

+
Take the Analysis of Major Characters Quick Quiz
TAKE THE QUIZ

More Help

Previous Next