The hero stands as an archetype of who we should be and who we wish to be. However, the hero has inherent flaws which we do not wish to strive towards. In literature, these flaws are not used as examples of what we should be but rather as examples of what not to be. This is especially dominant in the Greek hero. While the Greek hero follows his fate, making serious mistakes and having a fairly simple life, the Anglo-Saxon “super” hero tries, and may succeed, to change his fate, while dealing with a fairly complex life. The Greek hero is strong and mighty while his wit and intelligence are highly valued.
In the Greek tragedy, the hero struggles to avoid many flaws. Among these flaws are ambition, foolishness, stubbornness, and hubris-the excessive component of pride. He must overcome his predestined fate-a task which is impossible. From the beginning of the tale, it is already clear that the hero will ultimately fail with the only way out being death. In Oedipus, the hero is already confronted with a load of information about his family and gouges his eyes out. At this point, when he tries to outwit his fate he has already lost and is sentenced to death.
The Anglo-Saxon hero must also deal with his “fate” but tries, and usually succeeds, to change it. While the Greek hero battles his fate with his excessive pride and intelligence, the Anglo-Saxon hero tries to eliminate his doom by force. The Anglo-Saxon hero is considered a barbarian of sorts due to his sometimes unethical and immoral views and courses of action. At the end, the Anglo-Saxon succeeds in altering his fate though. The Greek hero is so normal, that the reader can relate to him. He is usually a “common” human being with no extraordinary life.
His story seems believable, even possible. We would have no hard time imagining the hero’s conflict as being ours. As in the case with Oedipus, we can understand how he feels it would be possible for his circumstances to be applied to our lives. Although the details may seem a little farfetched it is not impossible that there is some truth to the story. On the other hand, the Anglo-Saxon hero, being super-human, is especially difficult to relate to. The Anglo-Saxon may reach the same pedestal as a God. It is extremely hard to relate to this sort of person.
Who can relate to Beowulf, fighting a dragon named Grendel? It seems impossible. Such seems seem to be pure fiction or folklore. Nobody could apply such a situation to his life. The Greek hero is more of a thinker than a violent individual. He tries to outwit everyone including his fate. He has a high level of hubris. This is exactly the cause of his death making his fight nearly pointless. Oedipus deals with the human struggle for knowledge-first for knowledge of the evil which sets on the state, but ultimately for self-knowledge.
Despite the advice of others, Oedipus remains with his illusion, he must find the truth even if it will destroy him. Oedipus is a tragic hero according to Aristotle’s Conception in The Poetics. He is not the victim of fate expressed in the oracles. His tragedy results from within his character. He sees things only one way-his way, and driven by his uncontrolled emotions, ends up dead. Beowulf is the hands on, brutal type. There is no way he could overcome his fate with his brain. The only way out of the situation is to fight. In the Anglo-Saxon tragedy, there is no room to think and analyze the situation.
The hands on, physical confrontations seem more effective, since Beowulf is able to change the course of his fate. The tragic hero yearns to believe that there is purpose to his actions, yet many of his actions lead to pain and disaster more so in the Greek than Anglo-Saxon literature. He evolves thinking about right and wrong or good and evil, believing that these come to him as divine revelations. Yet he often discovers that his morality produces immoral results, and his good is often evil. The Anglo-Saxon is content with what is happening and decides to use his power to overcome his conflict rather than his mind.