As a forty-some year old man, reading Beowulf for the first time, I was caught by the humanity that rang and resonated through time and adventure. None of my observations would withstand critical scrutiny, but I’ll share here the lines that rang throughout my soul.
Beowulf, the hero of centuries, was taken for granted and dismissed by his compatriots. Though he was of noble lineage and nobler character, and though he was trained in the king’s own courtyard, his pedigree wasn’t sufficient for his peers. His great valour was misunderstood, perhaps intentionally misconstrued, by his masters and his lessers. He went on to rescue them, repeatedly, yet their perspective never changed beyond a few celebratory moments. They viewed themselves as worthy of rescue, but they found little worth in their rescuer. Nevertheless he remained loyal to them, at his own peril and great loss.
Thus Beowulf bore himself with valour;
he was formidable in battle yet behaved with honour
and took no advantage; never cut down
a comrade who was drunk, kept his temper
and, warrior that he was, watched and controlled
his God-sent strength and his outstanding
natural powers. He had been poorly regarded
for a long time, was taken by the Geats
for less than he was worth: and their lord too
had never much esteemed him in the mead-hall.
They firmly believed that he lacked force,
that the prince was a weakling; but presently
every affront to his deserving was reversed.
– Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, by Seamus Heaney (2000), at 2176, emphasis added.