Religious And Pagan Themes In Beowulf English Literature Essay
Although primarily a pagan poem, Beowulf contains Christian allusions that cannot be ignored. There is no mention of Jesus in Beowulf, and references to God seem based on the Testament rather than the New. But King Hrothgar and Beowulf sometimes refer to a single, all-powerful God, and there are instances of symbolic rebirth in the poem,such as Beowulf’s emergence from the mere after his defeat of Grendel’s mother. The fight with the dragon, late in the poem, especially seems to have Christian overtones.We are told that God’s will is done throughout the poem.Still, many of the Christian
references have the feel of alter thoughts. It seems more likely that they were added to
the work as it developed—not necessarily by one scop or scribe but by several, all trying
to make the poem more palatable to an increasingly Christian audience. The manuscript
that we end up with is clearly influenced by Christian philosophy but remains heavily heroic.
All of these characteristics apply to Beowulf. The hero, Beowulf, is the title character. He represents the values of the heroic age, specifically the Germanic code of comitatus—the honor system that existed in Scandinavian countries in the fifth and sixth centuries between a king, or feudal lord, and his warriors (thanes). Thanes swore devotion to their leader and vowed to fight boldly, to the death if necessary, for him. If the leader should fall, his thanes must avenge his life. For his part, the leader rewarded his thanes with treasure, protection, and land. His generosity often was considered a virtue and a mark of character. Courage, loyalty, and reputation were other virtues for these warriors, and we can look for them as themes in the poem. The code of the comitatus is at the heart of the Beowulf epic.
*Loyalty: One of the central themes of Beowulf, embodied by its title character, is loyalty. At every step of his career, loyalty is Beowulf’s guiding virtue. Beowulf comes to the assistance of the Danes (Scyldings) for complicated reasons. Certainly he is interested in increasing his reputation and gaining honor and payment for his own king because his major motivation is a family debt that Beowulf owes to Hrothgar. The young Geat is devoted to the old king because Hrothgar came to the assistance of Beowulf’s father, Ecgtheow, years before.
*Reputation: Another motivating factor for Beowulf—and a central theme in the epic—is reputation. From the beginning, Beowulf is rightly concerned about how the rest of the world will see him. He introduces himself to the Scyldings by citing achievements that gained honor for him and his king. Reputation is also the single quality that endures after death, his one key to immortality. He has and continues to amass treasures; his intent now is in building his fame.
*Generosity: The code of the comitatus is at the heart of the Beowulf epic. In this system, the king or feudal lord provides land, weapons, and a share of treasure to his warriors (called thanes or retainers) in return for their support of the leader in battle. The leader’s generosity is one of his highest qualities. When booty is seized from an enemy in battle, everything goes to the king. He then allots treasure to each warrior according to the man’s achievements as a soldier. When Beowulf defeats Grendel and Grendel’s mother, he expects and receives great riches as his reward.
The setting of this poem develops in the heroica ge 5th c. when the a-s invaders have a life style and a society base on heroic ideals. According to the geographical setting, we can say that it produces in the Britidh isles beacuse geography of england is perpetually reflects in the poem. The se is one of single element that mentions in the poem which not only gases england shores but also makes them notion of sailors, adventurous and great travellers as beowulf. However, there are referentes like the landscape of england. It varies has varies lakes and woods where monsters live or downs and farm where the famous Beowulf and his warriors across to came down to hrothgar’s hall.
Meanwhile, physical setting is the mead hall, in the incide world is high noble, majestic, decorative, glamorous and bright place where danes celebrate the bateles, feast, mettings, etc.
Moreover, the cave where Grendel and his mother hide from the world is symbolic of their lives as outcasts. Hidden beneath in the middle of a dark, forbidding swamp, the cave allows them a degree of safety and privacy in a world that they view as hostile. They certainly are not welcome at Heorot, and they know it. The cave also represents their heritage. As descendants of Cain, they are associated with sorcery, black magic, demons, ancient runes, and hell itself. When Grendel’s mother is able to fight Beowulf in the cave, she has a distinct advantage; his victory is all the more significant. It is not clear whether he wins because of his own ability, the influence of magic (the giant sword), or God’s intervention. The cave itself represents a world alien to Heorot.
The main character, Beowulf, demonstrates that he is a warrior who places heroism and bravery over his own well-being and life. Beowulf is a hero and an example of a great warrior. His actions give us a good example of the pagan warrior mentality. The pagan society is a warrior society, in which courage and bravery are extremely prevalent. Beowulf fights against monsters and dragons, and he would rather die in battle, then anywhere else. Beowulf is called upon to help defeat Grendel, who is a monster that has taken over the hall of Heorot. He is greeted with great hospitality. Hrothgar, the King of Denmark, is relived to see Beowulf. There is some skepticism by Unferth, who recalls a fight in which Beowulf lost in Battle.Unferth is wrong, and Beowulf says this great line: "fate often saves an undoomed man when his courage is good." Beowulf defeats Grendel with great ease and the people of the hall are gracious to Beowulf. With all his great achievements, he becomes king of his homeland (Geatland). Even in his old age, he still has an obligation to fight against the evils of nature. Beowulf hears about a dragon who has become extremely upset because a thief stole a cup from a treasure which he had been guarding for several years. When Beowulf asks for volunteers to fight against the dragon, all but one of Beowulf's followers run into the forest in fear. The one who stays with Beowulf, is a young warrior named Wiglaf. In the fight with the dragon, Beowulf is finally defeated. Even though the dragon slays him, Beowulf still has the strength to kill the dragon. The life of a great warrior has ended.
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