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Epic of Beowulf Essay - An Epic Poem

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Beowulf:  An Epic Poem


      To qualify as an epic poem, Beowulf reflects the values of the culture in which it was created. The Anglo-Saxon culture and the poem share many of the same values. They shared a heroic ideal that included loyalty, strength, courage, courtesy, and generosity. Like all epic poems Beowulf is a long narrative work that tells the adventures of a great hero and also reflects the values of the society in which it was written. Both Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxons believed in those qualities as an individual.

The strongest ties of loyalty in their society were to kin and lord. A kingdom was only as strong as its war-leader king. In order to have loyal men, the King needed to repay them. In other words the men were paid for loyalty. They were sometimes given, land, gold, money, food, armor and other things for a reward after battle. Both the Anglo-Saxons and the characters in Beowulf are willing to risk their life at any moment-they are inattentive to danger. The Anglo-Saxons acquired riches by plundering treasures of their enemies. Every family formed a bond of loyalty and protection. A family was bound to avenge a father or brother’s death by feud with the tribe or clan which had killed him. This duty of blood revenge was the supreme religion of the Anglo-Saxons. The family passed down this hatred forever until avenged. Always staying loyal to family and the lord. (Allen, 12-14)

"The Anglo Saxons appear as a race of fierce, cruel, and barbaric pagans, delighting in the seas, in slaughter, and in drink "(Allen, 17). The character of the ancient Saxons displayed the qualities of fearless, active, and successful. The Anglo-Saxons are mostly a barbaric race, not savage and rude but mostly military and...


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.... W. Beowulf: An Introduction. Cambridge: Univ. Press, 1967.

Collins, John J. "Apocalyptic Literature," Harper's biblical Dictionary, ed. Paul J. Achtmeier. San Francisco: Harper, 1985.

Emmerson, Richard K. and Bernard McGinn. The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages. Ithaca: Cornell, 1992.

Garmonsway, et. al. Beowulf and Its Analogues. New York: Dutton, 1971.

Gang, T. M. "Approaches to Beowulf." RES 3 (1952):.6-12.

Gildas. De Excidio Britanniae in Wade-Evans, A. W. , trans. Nennius' History of Britons. London: Methuen, 1938.

Goldsmith, Margaret. "The Christian Theme of Beowulf." Medium Aevum 29 (1960): 81-101.

Green, Martin. "Man, Time, and Apocalypse in The Wanderer, The Seafarer, and Beowulf," JEGP 74 (1975): 502-518.

Hieatt, Constance B. "Envelope Patterns and the Structure of Beowulf," English Studies in Canada 1 (1975): 249-265.


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