A Dane, the son of Ecglaf, and a follower of Hrothgar. Unferth is presented as contrast to Beowulf, providing a glimpse of a poor warrior in contrast to Beowulf's good warrior. Unferth is boastful, just as Beowulf is, but unlike Beowulf Unferth lacks the moral courage to back up his boasts (and unlike Beowulf Unferth never does anything to stand against Grendel). Further, Unferth appears to be jealous of Beowulf and never responds to Beowulf's taunt that Unferth once killed his own brother, which could signal either Unferth's incompetence or some sort of moral failing. Unferth does become more generous after Beowulf defeats Grendel, and lends Beowulf his family sword to fight Grendel's mother.
Unferth Character Timeline in Beowulf
The timeline below shows where the character Unferth appears in Beowulf. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Feast at Heorot (Lines 491–701)
A Second Fight (Lines 1408–1639)
New Celebration (Lines 1640–1912)