The tenets that make Beowulf a great hero conflict with Christian ideals such as love they neighbor and thou shalt not kill. Peace, mercy, and kindness are essential ethical components of Christianity while strength, vengeance, and triumph over enemies are essential components of the pagan warrior society. In this violent epic, Beowulf fights in order to get revenge on Grendel for terrorizing the Danes at Heorot. Grendel’s mother returns to kill the Danes and Geat warriors and fights Beowulf to get revenge for Grendel. This vicious cycle contradicts the Christian idea of forgiveness and peace.
It is difficult to see how in later times Virgil might have been referred to as a Christian before Christ. He clearly here states that Aeneas, who was a very humane hero, kills Turnus to avenge his friend despite the fact that Turnus repented his sins. At the end, justice triumphs over feelings like mercy. Both men, Aeneas and Turnus are shown to be bound by justice. Turnus cannot accept Aeneas’s usurping of his wedding rites, and is prepared to fight and die for it.
The issue is that the poet tries to portray his Christian beliefs throughout the story, but all of the characters have un-Christian like behavior. For example, Beowulf does not act like a Christian, but he is still very dedicated to his people and helping Heorot defeat Grendel. He also believes in glory after death, which is in contrast to the Christian belief that you go to heaven. One of the instances when the author talks about Christianity, is when he is introducing and describing Grendel. He introduces Grendel as the monster that is “haunting the marches, marauding round the heath and the desolate fens; he had dwelt for a time in misery among the banished monsters” (9).
The two major societies presented in Beowulf are the Danes and Geats and they are supposed to completely represent Christianity and just that, however; paganism was seeped into the epic poem purposely by the author. As they have to suffer under Grendel’s constant attacks, the Danes “turn to their heathen gods for help” and “at pagan shrines they vowed offerings to idols, swore oaths that the killer of souls might come to their aid” which are all things that Pagans would do (175-177). Because the author has Christian rulers but has them doing what Pagans would do in this same situation his goal in presented. This is exactly what Pagans do, they worship Gods and ask them for materialistic things such as winning wars and battles.
Vengeance was brought out when Beowulf tells Hrothgar to not grieve and that “It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning” (72 Simpson & David). Honor is disregarded when Beowulf’s men leave him to fight with the dragon. Wilgaf shames them and it can be inferred that they will be disregarded as warriors and nobles for their behavior. Protecting one’s master was essential during that time to receive food and shelter, in addition to having the Gods’ favor (Lawson). Christianity makes an appearance when it references the antagonist, Grendel, “a fiend out of hell” (43 Simpson & David) and the protagonist, Beowulf, whom the “Holy God, in His goodness, guided…to the West-Danes, to defend [Hrothgar and his subjects] from Grendel” (49 Simpson & David).
The traits of an epic hero can be aligned with a figure of faith within either Pagan or Christian belief. The creatures could be seen as the sins that keep man-kind from living a full and sin free life, these creatures (sins) that stopped Beowulf from winning the race (a sin free life), this could easily be a representation of the temptations of everyday life only expressed in a more grotesque and terrifying form. The creatures are terrifying yet are beat able. Beowulf’s strength could be represented as faith, for those with strong faith could possibly overcome these temptations that haunt everyday men and women. The faith to overcome the challenges of temptation is a religious belief that sins are a manifestation of the devils ability to coerce you into the wrong path, sending yourself to him, rather than to god.
The characters openly speak to and appeal to non-Christian gods and they doubt divine justice, suggesting that, 'They kill us for their sport.' This therefore creates a pagan setting for the play. However, there are definite Christian ideas running throughout the play which manifest themselves mainly in Edgar and Lear. Therefore, there is an inclination to agree with J C Maxwell, as despite the setting of the King Lear being Christian, its morals and concepts of atonement and redemption, lean towards Christian theology.
The horrible experience he has had of losing his lord has shaken his traditional Anglo-Saxon beliefs, and he looks toward Christianity for a different answer. During the time period in which The Wanderer was written, the Anglo-Saxons were torn between the familiar pagan beliefs they have always followed; and the new hope that the Christian philosophy had brough... ... middle of paper ... ... should care too fast be out of a man’s breast before he first know the cure: a warrior fights on bravely. Well is it for him who seeks forgiveness, the Heavenly Father’s solace, in whom all our fastness stands” (104-108). This line shows how the narrator still remembers God’s eternal love for those who suffer, as well as knowing that there is a life in heaven after his earthly life. The Wanderer reflects the traditional Anglo-Saxon beliefs, as well as captures the speaker’s efforts to find the answers to his deepest questions.
As the surge for Christianity began so to did a rush for morality. Some of the new converted Christians had pagan ancestors and needed help qualifying their past to be more accepting of Christianity. As it stood the new Christians believed their faith condemned their ancestor for their beliefs which caused many obstacles in the progression of the faith. While other faithful Christians needed lessons on virtuous behavior to further their faith. The poem Beowulf supplied a path to acceptance for the new Christians while illustrating a more virtuous life for already faithful.
Otherwise, in times of happiness and rejoicing, they worship their one, almighty, Christian God. When Grendel is attacking Herot, and its people think they are in their greatest danger, the people of Herot "sacrificed to the old stone gods / Made heathen vows / hoping for Hell's Support, the Devil's guidance in driving their affliction off." (175-178). With the use of the word "old" in this section, it can be inferred that the stone gods are things of the past. The rest of the passage shows that it was because of the doubt and fear, instilled in the people by Grendel, that the people of Herot regressed back to their old gods.