Major Themes Of Beowulf Essay

1191 words - 5 pages

Strength, Power, Heroism, and Courage. These are among the central themes that encompass the epic of Beowulf and allow the reader to take an intimate look at Anglo-Saxon society. Beowulf, the hero of this story, is the focal point, demonstrating his phenomenal super human abilities throughout the epic as he conquers and kills anything dangerous or beastly in his path. Although Beowulf is viewed as a superhero, Hrothgar, does not hesitate to present Beowulf with the best advice that he can muster. Hrothgar’s guidance is essential in outlining the basic and most vital themes of the epic. He warns Beowulf about overweening, resenting tradition, and dishonoring customs, among many other ...view middle of the document...

As demonstrated in this lack of self confidence in Heorot, the same anxiety exists when Wethergeld dies. It is automatically presumed that his men will fail since their leader is dead; there is no faith in them. This is made apparent when it is declared that “his men were doomed” (ll 2051). Undoubtedly, there is a strong suggestion in Beowulf that no matter how glorified or well constructed something appears to be on the outside, there is an inevitable end to all that will eventually take place.
Furthermore, the religious undertones in Beowulf exhibit Pagan beliefs, which is displayed through the typically non-Christian ways in which situations are handled, and most certainly exemplified in Hrothgar‘s speech to Beowulf. When Hrothgar is stressing the dangers of power he declares that, “he indulges his desires; illness and old age/ mean nothing to him; his mind is untroubled/by envy or malice” (ll 1735-7). This description is the antithesis of what is expected of a good Christian. Therefore, when Grendel begins to terrorize the Danes and gains control over Heorot Hall, the terrified counselors, resort to visiting “pagan shrines [where] they vowed/ offerings to idols, swore oaths” (ll 174-5). However, a devout Christian would be praying to God for the strength needed to defeat Grendel instead of offering oaths and vows. In order to save the Danes from Grendel, Beowulf arrives and seems to make a Christian sacrifice since he is placing his own life in danger to help the Danes. Yet, Beowulf is most eager to defeat Grendel and Grendel’s mother because it will attain him the ultimate glory of having his story retold for ages to come by the scops. Undoubtedly, Beowulf is doing a great service by killing Grendel and Grendel’s mother, yet his reasons for committing these acts are for his own selfish gain. Likewise, Paganism is also evident due to the strong importance placed on material possessions. Typically, Christians are taught to be humble, yet the characters in Beowulf are obsessed with the amount of gold and land they own, exemplifying their non-Christian ways. Women were viewed as jewelry stands for the amount of gold won by their husbands, their sole job being to show off the amount of wealth in their family. This reverence for wealth is also seen in the burial of Shield when he is strapped to a boat and set off into sea along with “far-fetched treasure” and “precious gear” (ll 36-7). Since Shield’s worldly possessions, presumably precious jewels and...

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