Epic of Beowulf Essay - Ambiguous Allegories and Imperfect Symbols

2413 Words 10 Pages
CRAM Exclusive
Essay Sample
Ambiguous Allegories and Imperfect Symbols in Beowulf          Though Beowulf contains apocalyptic elements from beginning to end, perhaps the most important apocalyptic element of Beowulf is the poet's historicizing of the biblical monsters in his characterization of Grendel, his mother, and the dragon. Of course, the many ambiguities found in Beowulf is the source of considerable confusion. For instance, on the one hand, early in the poem we read that the Danes in their dire necessity

middle of document…

Edward Risden has explored more thoroughly the apocalyptic elements in Beowulf than all the other scholars in his very informative Beasts of Time: Apocalyptic Beowulf.  But more needs to be done.

The main concern in this paper is with the monsters of Beowulf, who are related not only archetypally but also genetically, to the monsters of Apocalypse. According to Martin Green, Grendel "fits the paradigm of the apocalyptic beasts in general terms. He is the enemy of men and God (godes andsaca); he is associated with apostasy....In other words, like the apocalyptic beasts, Grendel becomes a physical projection of the world in a state of imminent collapse; and it is this level of symbolism that gives to Beowulf's battle against him its intensity and urgency" (515). Green, like all critics before and after, refuse to dwell on the allegorical element of apocalyptic beasts and instead talk about symbols and archetypes. Margaret Goldsmith, who also links the Beowulfian monsters to the beasts of Apocalypse, sees rather only the moral sense of the patristic tradition which associates the dragon to concupiscence. Irving sees the dragon strictly in terms of the heroic values of the poem. Calder rejects the association of the dragon and the apocalyptic beast and sees it as elemental force of evil unleashed in the universe, totally beyond and separate from the merely petty evils of
CRAM Exclusive

Related Documents

  • Epic of Beowulf - Themes of Beowulf Essay

    The treasure he won by his death was buried again with him. . . .In spite of this pattern, I do not believe that Beowulf can be regarded as an artistic unity in the modern sense, or that the poem has a higher theme than the life and death of its hero (236).   Most critics would disagree that the main theme is no more than the life and death of Beowulf the Geatish warrior and king. “Many critics feel that the speech of Hrothgar between lines 1700 and 1784 encapsulates the moral of the poem…

    Words: 1526 - Pages: 7
  • Beowulf is a True Epic Essay

    (250-252). As Umferth tells Beowulf of his defeat, Beowulf responds with a greater truth which reveals his great strength. He tells of his fight with the sea monsters which kept him from winning the race."Other monsters crowded around me, Continually attacking. I treated them politely, Offering the edge of my razor-sharp sword"(293-295). Beowolf responds with this information that changes many view points on the whole endeavor, including respect for Beowulf. Although Beowulf is telling of his in his

    Words: 1217 - Pages: 5
  • Beowulf as Epic Essay

    Jerusalem Delivered Milton, Paradise Lost Handout: Elements of an Epic While reading Beowulf, complete the chart of elements. Discussion Questions and/or possible essay topics: 1. What stories and movies fit this description / pattern? Hint: Troy – Brad Pitt; Luke/Leia … what other trilogies have been made popular? 2. Use the Elements of an Epic (chart handout) and map the elements from a contemporary movie/book that you think is an epic. 3. In the examples you came up with, what is the hero's relationship

    Words: 828 - Pages: 4
  • Essay on An Analysis of the Epic Poem, Beowulf - A Literary Epic

    An epic contains action at an immense level. Throughout the book there were battles between men and horrendous beasts. Each of Beowulf's battles contained exciting elements that enhanced the action. In his battle with Grendel, Beowulf fought with neither weapon nor human help. When challenging Grendel's mother, her immense strength and the fact that Beowulf was hours below the surface of the water hindered his fighting ability. In his final battle, Beowulf was up against one of the most feared beasts

    Words: 1247 - Pages: 5
  • Essay about Beowulf: an Epic Hero

    Beowulf was originally written in Old English, and has been translated into modern-day English many different times. Old English was a formal and proper language that, when translated, can become drawn out. The fact that Beowulf was written in Old English can help to explain why it is over three-thousand lines long, as well as why many of the actions and descriptions carry on for several lines within the poem. In a sense, most heroic poetry was written in older languages such as Latin and Old

    Words: 982 - Pages: 4
  • Epic of Beowulf Essay

    Beowulf is a hero in the eyes of his fellow men through his amazing physical strength. He fought in numerous battles and returned victorious from all but his last. Beowulf is also strong enough to kill the monster Grendel, who has been terrorizing the Danes for twelve years, with his bare hands by ripping off Grendel's arm. When Beowulf is fighting Grendel's mother, who is seeking revenge on her son's death, he is able to slay her by slashing the monster's neck with a giant's sword that can only

    Words: 895 - Pages: 4
  • Beowulf Epic Hero Essay

    243-245). Beowulf takes this sword off the wall with ease and slays his adversary with it, proving that he is immensely strong, as well as the only mortal that can obtain such a weapon. Even before he picked up the giant-hammered weapon, he had his own sword, Hrunting, that he used to fight his foes in previous clashes. This weapon never let him down in battles before Grendel’s mother, and whenever he would “[swing] his sword/ his ring-marked blade…/ The iron [would sing] its fierce song” (l. 204-206)

    Words: 879 - Pages: 4
  • Beowulf: a Pagan Epic Hero? Essay

    Christian and Pagan as used in Beowulf, are the ideas of God and Wyrd. They are the two deities, or higher powers, by which Christians and Pagan respectively believe in : God and Fate. According to Professor Kennedy, "In the poem, God and Wyrd are brought into juxtaposition in such a manner as to imply control of Fate by the superior power of Christian divinity." (Kennedy, pp. 87-88) By this same thought, Beowulf as a literary work, can be seen as a first progression of epic literature into the Christian

    Words: 1688 - Pages: 7
  • Essay about Epic Poetry and Beowulf

    describes the beginning of the battle between Beowulf and Grendel's mother. Caesura is common in Anglo-Saxon poetry, it emphasizes rhythm and creates intensity in poems. Anglo-Saxons had many values, they believed in leadership and were dominated by their need to protect their families. Loyalty was a necessity to the Anglo-Saxon people, their leaders were never unfaithful and in return warriors pledged their loyalty. Wiglaf expresses loyalty to Beowulf when he says ". . . Our glorious king! By almighty

    Words: 683 - Pages: 3
  • Essay about Beowulf is an Epic Hero

    shown, when Beowulf fights Grendel and Grendel’s mother, but it is especially noticeable when he fights the dragon. When Beowulf fought Grendel others had the courage to attempt to fight him. The same is true with Grendel’s mother. When Beowulf goes to fight the Dragon, the other warriors cower away into the woods. Beowulf shows his courage by fighting the Dragon. Even when Beowulf is fighting the Dragon and realizes that his sword can do no damage he continues to fight. After Beowulf is on the verge

    Words: 850 - Pages: 4