Beowulf The Epic Poem English Literature Essay

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Treasures frequently go for centuries without being found. And the best 1s frequently come from unknown beginnings. Beowulf, the heroic poem verse form about a heroic Geat had gone untold and thankless for centuries until it was eventually recognized in the early 1800 ‘s. Known as one of the greatest and most of import Anglo-saxon Literatures and written by an unknown Anglo-Saxon poet, Beowulf returns to convey approximately many allusions and subjects which are of great literary value. In peculiar nevertheless, the poet of Beowulf employs an array of Christian subjects mixed in with some Germanic pagan religion in his heroic poem verse form.

In order to wholly understand Beowulf, critics frequently look into the cryptic poet himself. The fact that the Beowulf poet was a Christian is a repeating subject for many critics. For illustration, “ ..the Christian writer who was responsible for giving the verse form the general form and tone.. ” ( Rogers 233 ) . Rogers goes on to speak about the attitude of the poet towards the verse form and the stuff which he used. It is safe to presume that the poet did n’t contrive anything in the verse form but alternatively, used the stuff in “ … his ain intent, puting his personal accent upon it ” ( Rogers 233 ) .

Rogers feels that the poet is clearly colored pro Christianity. “ The poet saw the heroic yesteryear of the Danes and the Geats through the eyes of a Christian Anglo-Saxon. ” The critic so goes on to give illustrations of the assorted methods of the poet which suggest his Christian influence on the verse form. The poet is portrayed as being a complacent Christian, one who believes in all things good, and is disgusted by the pagan religion of his clip. The poet uses motivations such as arms, hoarded wealth, and society to his advantage in an wholly Christian method. Unlike in other plants of literature, similar motivations in Beowulf are used in a wholly different method. Such as the blade, in Beowulf is melted off after executing merely one great title, when in other literature the hero would prize it and make many great workss. Treasure is besides portrayed in a Christian manner, alternatively of demoing both sides of hoarded wealth, which most other literature would hold done, the poet merely emphasizes the immoralities of hoarded wealth ( Rogers 234-235 ) .

Although the poet of Beowulf uses many Christian philosophies carefully and largely successfully, it ‘s his usage of pagan religion, and the cognition or to some, the deficiency of, that intrigues many critics. “ No 1 now doubts that it was composed by a poet exhaustively versed in Christian and scriptural traditions, but whether its writer had the same grade of cognition of the background to his chosen capable affair — specifically, Norse pagan religion — has been ferociously debated ” ( O’donoghue ) . In oppugning the poet ‘s cognition and positions on pagan religion, whether Germanic or Anglo-Saxon, many critics peruse the poet ‘s beginnings, most of which include older literature available to the poet at the clip.

O’donoghue goes on to analyse and compare different beginnings such as Old Norse-Icelandic literature and how the poet distorts and kilts it with ancient Germanic yesteryear.

Further unfavorable judgment is made out of the manner in which the poet uses heathen beginnings. “ Doubtless he was less disturbed than we are by traces of his heathen beginnings that lie awkwardly in the matrix of his Christian prepossessions ” ( Hamilton 105 ) . It is most likely that the poet did this intentionally, and included a certain “ implicit in rule ” all of which he made possible by the enunciation of the verse form. When the poet used words that had multiple significances, or who ‘s significances were really elastic, it was he who had the advantage of cognizing. Hamilton continues on to knock the poets farther use of pagan narratives in his ain position, that is to state in the Christian position. The poet represents “ ..Scandinavians of per-conversion yearss as Orthodox Catholics ; ” Hamilton viewed this as the poet intentionally transforming “ heathen Teutonic traditional knowledge ” into a Christian tone. The poet besides did good non to demo any marks of his work, as he “ avoided Christian worship or saints and simply represents his nobler agents as intelligent monotheists ” . But possibly the poet needed to make this, possibly he himself, or his audience although non accepting Anglo-Saxon worshiping “ … would non hold understood a adult male with no spiritual commitment ” at all ( Hamilton 105-107 ) .

R. E. Kaske besides speaks of the poets use of pagan religion and Christianity in Beowulf. But unlike other critics, Kaske believes the drive force behind the full verse form is “ sapientia et fortitudo ” , which can be mistily translated as wisdom in either physical strength or bravery. Karke speaks of sapientia et fortitudo as being the major subject and holding all of the other subjects, such as pagan religion and Christianity molded around it. Kaske believes “ that the poet used this old ideal as an country of synthesis between Christianity and Germanic pagan religion ” ( Kaske 273 ) . The method which the poet uses is a two-step method. First he draws facets of both Christianity and Germanic pagan religion which relate to sapientia et fortitudo. Second the poet looks to take facets of both traditions that comply the most with the point of position of the other. Hence, the Christian point of position is chiefly derived from the Old Testament, and the verse form has an Old Testament tone. Because the “ sapientia of the Old Law is more about compatible with the wisdom of Germanic Paganism than the sapientia in the New ” ( Kaske273 ) . Kaske so continues to dissect single characters and weather their sapientia et fortitudo was more Christian or heathen.

Next we will research the unfavorable judgment of Beowulf the character, and the Christian influence which he is surrounded with. It is logical to believe, that because the poet has employed so many Christian subjects in what most likely are older pagan narratives and Anglo-Saxon traditions, that the most Christianity would be portrayed through the hero, in this instance Beowulf.

Possibly one of the strongest correlativities between Beowulf and Christianity is the obvious characteristics of Christ himself in the Beowulf character. Allen Cabaniss carefully plots the particulars of Christ nowadays in Beowulf particularly in Beowulf ‘s conflict against Grendel ‘s ma. To get down off, the really topographic point in which Grendel ‘s female parent lives has really similar characteristics to hell. The connexion between snake pit and the lake is future strengthened by “ ..The statements that is a H2O weirdly aflame, reminiscent of the Apocalyptic ‘lake which burneth with fire and native sulfur: ‘ ” ( Cabaniss 224 ) . Following, as Beowulf prepares for conflict and possibly decease, he does non mourn for his life, but alternatively tells Hrothgar what to make if he were to decease. “ The analogue with Christ is even more dramatic as Beowulf magnanimously forgives his enemy Unferth merely before the dip into the fen-depths ” ( Cabaniss 224 ) .

Other subjects, which Cabaniss points out include the audience, or the Danes in this mode who assume that Beowulf have been kill. But his fellow Geates are the lone 1s who stand by him, meanwhile the Danes “ give up the vigil at the dark hr of the twenty-four hours ” ( Cabaniss ) . This individual subject is a celebrated with Christ as he was deceasing on the cross being abandoned by all at the 9th hr except for his few adherents. “ Finally, there iis a suggestion of winter ‘s terminal and springtime’gs burgeoning as Beowulf comes up in victory, which although, non purely scriptural, is one of the most ancient of Easter Themes ” ( Cabaniss 225 ) . By doing seven distinguishable connexions between Beowulfs escapades and conflicts and Christ ‘s decease, harrowing of snake pit, and Resurrection, Cabaniss successfully puts forth undeniable grounds of the Christian motive and thoughts in Beowulf.

Although, Cabaniss ‘s statement on the clear connexions between Beowulf and Christianity, counter statements can be made. Levin Schucking does n’t needfully rebut Cabaniss ‘s claim of the poets dramatic usage of allusions to Christ, alternatively he speaks of cases where the poet failed to hold on the Christian facets of some things, which relate specifically to Beowulf the character.

It is difficult interpret conditions Schucking is knocking the poet for non taking advatge of the decease of Beowulf to utilize a Christian mechanism or merely rendering the facts of Beowulf missing Christianity at his decease, and therefore doing him look less Christian than other critics would wish to acknowledge. Either manner, Schuckings tone suggests that he was highly disquieted with the construct of Beowulf being “ unchristian ” .

“ For no minute of human being characterizes Christian and non-Christian attitudes so unambiguously as that of decease ” ( Schucking 36 ) . In analysing Beowulf decease, the critic points out the correlativities to Germanic pagan tradition instead than a a Christian based subject. The deceasing Beowulf looks back on his life, and “ expresses satisfaction ” for running his land “ so good that no enemy dared to assail it. ” He besides looks back on that fact that he was a good adult male, that be had non broken curses, or committed any offenses. Too the untrained oculus this flash back of Beowulf might look reasonably Christian, but Schuckings points out two distinguishable characteristic of this scene, one of which can be linked easy to Heathen Germans, and the other even more easy as a misdemeanor of the Christian moral codification.

One of the elements is the construct of “ codification of ethical motives of the Germanic people ” which is emphasized greatly when Beowulf alludes to holding a greater title or executing a responsibility. “ Treue ” is the Anglo-Saxon words which relates to truthful behaviour, fidelity in the sense of trueness, or maintaining of a promise. It is most likely that the critic is seeking to acquire through the fact that this construct, is a original Germanic/Anglo-Saxon construct untouched by the Christian poet and his Christian use.

Furthermore Schuckings discusses the “ construct that no enemy dared to assail him ( Beowulf ) ” ( Schucking 36 ) . This construct is non really Christian-like. Schuckings letdown over the UN-Christian farewell of Beowulf is possibly even more fueled with the deceasing heroes tone. “ There is small harmoniousness between the Christian penitentiary maxim that we are all evildoers, and the beautiful pride of duty-performed that emerges from the farewell words with which he goes confidently to his justice ” ( Schucking 37 ) . The deficiency of unimportance of Beowulf upon his decease shows a good differentiation from Christianity in what seems to be a faux pas up by the poet.

Equally far as other allusions made to Christianity in Beowulf, there are tonss and tonss. But one of the most unmarked is possibly the allusion to Unferth. “ In treatment of the Christian elements in Beowulf, it seems to hold escaped the notice of bookmans that the character of Unferth may supply an illustration of Christian fable consciously employed by the poet ” ( Bloomfield 155 ) .

To to the full understand the execution of Unferth in the verse form, Bloomfield foremost dissects the name itself and it ‘s etymology. It is widely believed to intend precisely as it is, Un- eaning non and ferth- significance peace. However Bloodfield explores the possibility of the “ UN ” being of a different significance such as OE. Unhar intending really old and ON. hunn significance ( bear ) . The critic so further notes that Germanic names, in a historical sense did n’t or make n’t hold to intend anything.

Bloomfield so continues to state that Unferth was an fable, a witting fable of the poet.

Since it is widely accepted that Beowulf is regarded as “ rex justus ” or the merely male monarch, the poet felt a demand to include in Unferth, a signifier of “ discordia ” which needed to be defeated. “ Prudentius tells the narrative of how Discord wounds Concord and is killed by religion. Beowulf, nevertheless, defeats his adversary, non by force, but by illustration, and Unferth hands over his blade, the symbol of his might ” ( Bloomfield 162 ) . By touching to Predentius, the critic is seeking to put a criterion for which he thinks the Beowulf poet is establishing the portraiture of Unferth. Bloomfield repeatedly insists that the poet needed Unferth to be a portion of the colouring of the Christian form that was his verse form.

Bloomfield goes on to follow the beginning and to calculate out what the poet himself was believing, and the existent values and subjects which he put into the verse form, and finally out of that the character of Unferth. Bloomfield feels that we over stress the “ the heathen facets of the oldest known Germanic heroic poem ( Bloomfield 163 ) .

“ It belongs to the Christian tradition, non merely in temper and ideals, and in occasional Biblical mentions, but at least partly and tentatively, in literary technique. An old Norse narrative has been changed in to a Christian verse form. Sing Unferth as colored by the allegorical figure Discordi, enables us to fall in Beowulf with the Christian Middle Ages in a manner non hitherto possible ” ( Bloomfield 163-164 ) .

As Bloomfield repeatedly comments on the fable of Unferth to Discordia, he makes small advancement in straight linking the character to a Christian subject as he had promised. It seems as if the critic is excessively caught up in the motivation of the poet, who he feels is so eager to use the verse form in a Christian footing to the Britain universe of the 6th century. Nevertheless Bloomfield chose a different path in conveying the character of Unferth to visible radiation and his connexion to Discordia.

S.J. McNamme besides brings Forth an allegorical sense of the verse form which is overlooked by many critics, but instead than concentrate on a specific character, McNamme compares the verse form to the Christian subject of Salvation and suggests its usage of theological tenet from the New Testament. “ I suggest to wish in this survey that as an fable of the Christian narrative of Salvation the Beowulf verse form both echoes the Holy Eucharist and reflects New Testament theological tenet ” ( McNamee 332 ) . McNamme continues on and speaks of the fact the poet evidently and intentionally “ gone out of his manner to except all the old heathen Gods from an active topographic point in his verse form ” ( McNamee 332 ) . He farther goes on to state that the God that they do refers to in Beowulf is the God of the Christians. The critic points out certain cardinal facets of the verse form which relate to the Old Testament, merely as Grendel the evil progeny of Cain, and the verse forms uninterrupted upbringing of “ Lord ” , “ The Creator ” , “ The human state of affairs as a race fallen from grace is hinted at, too.. ” ( McNamee 334 ) etc. However the critic utilizations these subjects as a edifice up procedure in which he proceeds to convey forth subjects from the New Testament. McNamme so continues to indicate out the Christian narrative of salvation, which is the fact that adult male has lost his touch with God, adult male has “ fallen from the province of artlessness and felicity and is in powerful clasp of Satan. And therefore adult male is incapacitated without a Jesus, a savior such as Christ. In the verse form it is about a clear colour between Beowulf, as Christ holding to salvage work forces from what can be perceived as immorality in Grendel or even in The Dragon ( McNamee 332-335 ) .

Beowulf is the work of a superb poet, whatever his motivations, who sought to convey forth a complex and contemplated narrative for the centuries. Whether a Christian who chose to pull strings the narratives of Heathen-German and Icelandic common people narratives or an Anglo-saxon protegee who took the many old ages of narratives presented to him and decided to convey them to a new visible radiation, the Beowulf poet brightly portrayed assorted Christian subjects and some Germanic traditions merely as pagan religion into the heroic poem verse form.