In the battle with the dragon, Beowulf acts as a protagonist. He is the character with whom readers identify themselves. The dragon is the antagonist. It opposes Beowulf and kills him. A protagonist and an antagonist are antonyms. These opposing forces create a conflict in a story and move the plot forward.
In storytelling, a protagonist is a character who works to achieve the central goals of the story. In Beowulf, the principal objective is to defeat evil and save people. Beowulf succeeds in achieving these purposes but dies soon after the dragon is defeated.
Beowulf fought the dragon even despite his old age. His pride and heroic code would not let him leave the situation as it was. He took Naegling to the battle. He received this sword from Hygelac when the king was still alive. But when the hero hit the dragon, the blade broke, leaving Beowulf open to attack. The dragon bit him with his venomous teeth. Wiglaf helped Beowulf to defeat the dragon, although the protagonist made the last deadly wound.
The hero strives for fame and glory as a warrior. He has ruled the Geats for 50 years. At the time of the battle with the dragon, he is a wise old king. The narrator foreshadows Beowulf’s death in this fight: “He was sad at heart, unsettled yet ready, sensing his death.” Still, the finale is unknown: there is no hint on whether the dragon will be killed. But as far as Beowulf will die, it does not matter much. The narrator predicts a decline in the life of the Geats. Wiglaf will become the next king, but he is not a match for Beowulf.