An Analysis of the Epic Poem, Beowulf - Social Codes in Beowulf Essay example

An Analysis of the Epic Poem, Beowulf - Social Codes in Beowulf Essay example

Length: 902 words (2.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Social Codes in Beowulf

  In reading Beowulf, one cannot help noticing the abundance of references to weapons and armor throughout the text. Many passages involving weapons and armor contain important messages that the author is trying to convey. These passages involve the choice to use or refrain from using arms, the practice of disarming oneself upon entering another's home, and the idea of a man's worth being measured by his weapons.


First, the theme of choosing to use, or not to use, weapons against an adversary seems to be a major issue in the work. On three different occasions, when Beowulf fights Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon, the choice of whether or not to use weapons against a foe is brought to the reader's attention. In the events leading up to the fight with Grendel, Beowulf says:


The monster in his recklessness cares not for weapons. Therefore, so that my liege lord Hygelac may be glad of me in his heart, I scorn to bear sword  but with my grasp I shall grapple with the enemy ... foe against foe. I claim myself no poorer in war-strength ... than Grendel claims himself. Therefore I will not put him to sleep with a sword . . . though surely I might. (32, 35)


Beowulf knows he is evenly matched with Grendel, and that using a sword would make it an unfair contest because he would surely defeat Grendel. By making the fight fair, Beowulf maintains his honor, which is the main idea of each of the other confrontations as well.


In Beowulf's fight with Grendel's mother, he engages her with Hrunting, Unferth's sword, since she attacks him with a knife. When Beowulf decides to fight the dragon, he comments: "I...

... middle of paper ...

...est represented by the passage in which Wiglaf, thane of Beowulf, makes the bold statement: "It does not seem right to me for us to bear our shields home again unless we can first fell the foe, defend the life of the prince of the Weather-Geats" (61).


All three of the ideas involving arms are recurring images throughout Beowulf: the choice to use or refrain from using arms, disarming oneself upon entering another's home, and the worth of a man being measured by his weapons,. They all deal with various layers of respect, obviously a very important issue to the person of the early Middle Ages and afford the reader an opportunity to understand an aspect of the medieval mind.


Works Cited

Beowulf. Trans. E. T. Donaldson, 1966. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed.          M.H. Abrams. 6th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1993. 2768.


Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Scop (beowulf) Essay

- The Scop After Julius Caesar lay claim to Englisyou do not want to receive this notification, click the Options link on the top horizontal menu bar. On the Options page, click the Preferences link. Scroll down to the Confirm Sent Messages option and select Noh soil, the Britons were subject the Northern coasts remained to become settlers and tillers of the soil, and Anglo-Saxon part of the Anglo-Saxon body of folklore and legend. It was not long until various warrior-kings had a “singer”, or scop attached to their courts who could recite and sing a body or oral literature- particularly about the warrior-king’s glorious deeds....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]

Free Essays
945 words (2.7 pages)

Beowulf Society Essay example

- Beowulf Society The earliest known manuscript of Beowulf is thought to have been written in the tenth century, however, the poem had most likely been told as an oral tradition for centuries before that. In fact, the poem’s events date back to the sixth century. However, because there is only one manuscript of Beowulf still in tact very little is known about the poem or its author. The poem does, however, give us great insight into the culture of the people who composed and told this epic tale....   [tags: essays research papers]

Better Essays
1721 words (4.9 pages)

Beowulf a Poem Translated by Seamus Heaney Essay

- In the poem, Beowulf, by an unknown poet, as translated by Seamus Heaney, we see many monstrous behaviors. A few of the examples stand out more than the rest: wanton destruction, a woman acting as a man, and the act of killing one’s kin. Wanton destruction goes against the ideals that governed the Anglo-Saxon culture. The warrior kings had duties to uphold. We see that they revered kings who would bring protection and give freely to the young and old and not cause harm. One good illustration of this is the nature in which King Hrothgar dispensed his wealth, he dispensed it to the needy and he didn’t give away “the common land or the people’s lives” (71-73)....   [tags: beowulf]

Better Essays
1057 words (3 pages)

The Epic Poem, Beowulf - Vengeance and Revenge in Beowulf Essay

- Vengeance and Revenge in Beowulf   The oldest of the great lengthy poems written in English and perhaps the lone survivor of a genre of Anglo-Saxon epics, Beowulf, was written by an unknown Christian author at a date that is only estimated.  Even so, it is a remarkable narrative story in which the poet reinvigorates the heroic language, style, and values of Germanic oral poetry.  He intertwines a number of themes including good and evil, youth and old age, paganism and Christianity and the heroic ideal code, into his principal narrative and numerous digressions and episodes; all of which were extremely important to his audience at the time.  Vengeance, part of the heroic code, was regard...   [tags: Epic Beowulf essays]

Better Essays
1317 words (3.8 pages)

An Analysis of the Epic Poem, Beowulf - Beowulf Essay

- Beowulf The classic hero is a well-known character of high social position whose qualities represent those valuable to his society. The hero is pitted against monsters and is, therefore, strong and courageous often to the point of seeming superman. Beowulf often displays cunning and craftiness in dealing with others. At the same time, since he represents all humans, he struggles to overcome human weaknesses. He is challenged and he triumphs. In Beowulf: A new telling by Robert Nye, Beowulf is a classic hero....   [tags: Epic Beowulf essays]

Free Essays
783 words (2.2 pages)

The Pessimism of Beowulf in the Epic Poem, Beowulf Essay

-     Anticipation of catastrophe, doom, gloom are present in Beowulf rom beginning to end, even in the better half of the poem, Part I. Perhaps this is part of what makes it an elegy – the repeated injection of sorrow and lamentation into every episode. In his essay, “The Pessimism of Many Germanic Stories,” A. Kent Hieatt says of the poem Beowulf: The ethical life of the poem, then, depends upon the propositions that evil. . . that is part of this life is too much for the preeminent man. . . .  that after all our efforts doom is there for all of us” (48)....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essay]

Better Essays
2836 words (8.1 pages)

Essay about Beowulf as a Pacifist Poem

- Beowulf as a Pacifist Poem Social phenomena have always been narrated by artists. Art is a cathartic way to express one’s negative feelings; poems help poets and their readers or listeners to deal with people's frustrations. War, man's tendency to wage aggression upon each other, is the most criticized issue among intellectuals in the society. An artist's opinions, especially when conflicting with the established social norm of the dominant society, may be disguised and hidden beneath metaphors and complex analogies....   [tags: Social Phenomena Literature Art Essays]

Free Essays
932 words (2.7 pages)

Historical and Social Symbology in Beowulf Essay

- On the surface, the poem Beowulf seems to be a simple tale of a brave hero who triumphs over three monsters and who engages in several other battles in order to preserve what is just and right. A more thorough reading, however, reveals that the epic poem is filled with events that symbolize historical and social conditions that prevailed during the European reign of the Scandinavians in the seventh century to around the ninth century, following the Danish invasion of England (Sisson 1996). Analysts additionally point out that Beowulf’s author was a person who has a “strong sense of cultural diversity” (Frank 1982: 52)....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf 2014]

Better Essays
1490 words (4.3 pages)

The Theme of the Epic Poem, Beowulf Essay

- The Theme of Beowulf        Interpretations of Beowulf vary. In this essay I hope to state clearly some of the popularly mentioned themes running through the poem.   “Many critics feel that the speech of Hrothgar between lines 1700 and 1784 encapsulates the moral of the poem….’He does not know the worse – till inside him great arrogance grows and spreads’” (Shippey 38). Hrothgar’s ominous words do come back to haunt the hero more than once. Beowulf is a braggart; he is proud, and nothing seems able to change his basic proud outlook derived from his all-powerful physical strength....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essay]

Better Essays
982 words (2.8 pages)

The Epic Poem - Beowulf Essay

-           Beowulf is an epic poem. Why. Because (1) it is a long narrative work that relates the adventures of a great hero and (2) it reflects the values of the Anglo-Saxon society in which it was written prior to 1000AD. This Old English poem in unrhymed, four-beat alliterative style narrates, through the course of about 3200 verses, the bold killing of two monsters, Grendel and his Mother, and a fire-dragon, as well as numerous other brave deeds in lesser detail, by Beowulf, “the strongest of men alive in that day, mighty and noble,” “the good Geat.”  Roberta Frank in “The Beowulf Poet’s Sense of History” sees the hero as “the synthesis of religious and heroic idealism” (Frank 59)....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essay]

Better Essays
2243 words (6.4 pages)