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Character Role Analysis

Unferth to Beowulf

While at King Hrothgar's court, Beowulf is challenged by a Dane warrior, Unferth, who suggests that Beowulf isn't nearly as brave or heroic as he claims. Unferth is an example of everything not to be as a medieval Scandinavian warrior: instead of describing his own heroic deeds, he downplays those of others, and he doesn't actually perform any great deeds himself. In other words, he's just sitting around criticizing people without doing anything productive.

In contrast, Beowulf is only too ready to rush off into combat, and never insults other people. It's interesting that, even though Unferth is a negative example, there don't seem to be any hard feelings between him and Beowulf. In fact, when Beowulf goes off to fight Grendel's mother, Unferth lends him a sword.