At present the development and use of beryllium metal for structural applications is severely hampered by its brittleness. Reasons for this lack of ductility are reviewed in discussing the deformation behaviour of beryllium in relation to other hexagonal metals. The ease of fracturing in beryllium is assumed to be a consequence of a limited number of deformation modes in combination with high deformation resistance. Models for the nucleation of fracture are suggested. The relation of ductility to elastic constants as well as to grain size, texture and alloying additions is discussed.