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Themes in Beowulf

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Anonymous Anonymous

on 4 September 2014

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Transcript of Themes in Beowulf

Themes in Beowulf
Beowulf's life is influenced and controlled by fate

A hero’s ability to determine his own fate is possible as long as he remains a hero dedicated to honor, glory, and bravery. Presumably, Beowulf could have avoided his fated death if he chose not to battle the dragon; however, Beowulf would have also lost his heroic status. This paradox results in the epic and somewhat tragic conflict between fate and free will in Beowulf.

Fate in Beowulf is God's Will

If we can change it, is it fate?
Grendel seeks revenge upon mankind for the inheritance that he has received. He enjoys raiding Herot because it is the symbol of everything that he detests about men: their success, joy, glory, and favor in the eyes of God.

Grendel's mother seeks revenge for her son.

Beowulf's final battle is the result of vengeance. The dragon seeks revenge because a slave has stolen a valuable cup from the monster's hoard. His raids across the countryside include the burning of Beowulf's home.

Beowulf seeks his own revenge by going after the dragon.
At the beginning of the poem, Beowulf is young, brave, and worries about no one but himself. Because of this he can risk everything in his quest for personal glory.

Hrothgar is responsible for the lives of his people, and because of this he seeks their safety rather than his own honor.

Led by Hrothgar's example, Beowulf becomes a good king, realizing that it is his duty to praise his warriors as well as to protect his people.

Wiglaf stays with Beowulf when all the others ran away. Because Beowulf had honored him, Wiglaf would honor Beowulf.
Anonymous author was probably a devout Christian writing of a pre-Christian era. Both Hrothgar and Beowulf believe in a single, omnipotent God.

Grendel is a descendent of Cain, not at fault but punished for Cain's wrongdoing.

Denmark needed a savior, so God sent Beowulf. Much like God sent Jesus to save the world. Beowulf is a Christ-figure.

The lake is hell, hell opens up to receive Grendel.
Good Vs. Evil
Herot is symbolic of a church (Good)

Hrothgar's throne is symbolic of God's Grace and Favor

Grendel was evil, therefore he could not touch the throne (God's Grace and Favor)

Beowulf mentions that Grendel has prevailed simply because no one has fought him. If no one chooses to fight evil, it will prevail.

Evil is that which takes us away from God and from ourselves, evil is "no" to life.
During Beowulf's battle with Grendel's mother:
But Beowulf
Longed only for fame, leaped back
Into battle. He tossed his sword aside,
Angry; the steel-edged blade lay where
He'd dropped it. If weapons were useless he'd use
His hands, the strength in his fingers. So fame
Comes to men who mean to win it
And care about nothing else! (485-92)
Cautionary tale of King Hermod who had the potential to be great but missed his opportunity because of pride:
His vanity swelled him so vile and rank
That he could hear no voices but his own.
He deserved to suffer and die. (911-13)

Beowulf when speaking about defeating the dragon:
No one else could do
What I mean to, here, no man but me
Could hope to defeat this monster.
No one could try.
And this dragon's treasure, his gold
And everything hidden in that tower, will be mine. (627-31)

Fate will unwind as it must (189)

Fate has swept our race away,
Taken warriors in their strength and led them
To the death that was waiting (825-27)

When Beowulf is fighting the dragon:
And for the first time in his life that famous prince
Fought with fate against him, with glory
Denied him. He knew it, but he raised his sword
And struck at the dragon's scaly hide. (668-71)
Dragon is a symbol of greed

Wanting to have what we neither need nor particularly want
But Grendel has found out that he need not fear very much the enmity and the terrible storming of swords of your people...for he carries on as he pleases-he kills and destroys, and expects no fight from the Spear-Danes! (689-96)
I dare to hope this: That God most holy
has in His mercy sent [Beowulf] to us
West-Danes, against Grendel's ravaging! (438-40)

Grendel's lineage:
Conceived by a pair of those monsters born
Of Cain, murderous creatures banished
By God, punished forever for the crime
Of Abel's death. (20-23)

Grendel's lake:
But the swirling
Surf had covered his death, hidden
Deep in the murky darkness his miserable
End, as hell opened to receive him. (371-74)

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