Beowulf: Good versus Evil, Fate, and the Warrior Identity - Essay Example

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In the paper “Beowulf: Good versus Evil, Fate, and the Warrior Identity” the author examines the oldest surviving major writing in English – Beowulf. It is an epic Old English (Anglo-Saxon) poem that depicts the warrior, conflict-ridden culture of Europe’s early medieval society…
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Beowulf: Good versus Evil, Fate, and the Warrior Identity
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Download file to see previous pages Setting is important to the poem because it portrays the warrior culture and history of the Anglo-Saxons. Beowulf lived at the time where different tribes, including the Geats, the Swedes, and the Danes, constantly fought one another (Staver 3). Kings were able to maintain their power through using their treasures to reward warriors, who served them (Staver 3). Historians believed that Beowulf went to King Hrothgar, ruler of the Danes, so that he could balance powers in favor of his people. During this time, the Geats could be fighting Swedes at the north, aside from other factions all over Scandinavia, and so Beowulf could have aimed to gain a newfound ally in King Hrothgar through pledging allegiance to him (Staver 3). The setting of Beowulf is not only the environment of the story, but it also provides the macro forces that shape its characters’ motivations and actions. Characters and important events are connected to the themes of Beowulf, the first of which is good versus evil. The first significant event of the poem is the arrival of Beowulf at the land of the Danes, exactly when King Hrothgar needs someone to defend his kingdom from a man-eating demon, Grendel. The event is important because it gives Beowulf the opportunity to return favors because the King once helped the former’s father. Beowulf becomes the warrior of Good against Grendel, the Evil one. In the epic, Beowulf fights the “captain of evil”, despite knowing the possibility of death. Beowulf is the typical warrior who finds honor in dying in war.  Grendel, on the contrary, is Evil because he comes from “Cain’s clan,” where the epic says “Cain got no good from committing that murder/ because the Almighty made him anathema/ and out of the curse of his exile there sprang/ ogres and elves and evil phantoms/ and the giants too...” (Heaney 106-113). This description implicates the Christian background of the poem’s author, where the author indicates that Good and Evil have clear-cut boundaries. Apart from using Beowulf as a symbol of Good, the poem speaks of goodness in terms of Christian didacticism, where the author indicates Christian religious beliefs. The epic highlights that the greatest Good comes from the greatest God: “Like a man outlawed/ for wickedness, he must await/ the mighty judgement of God in majesty (Heaney 976-978). The epic teaches the value that God ultimately holds humanity’s fate. Thus, Beowulf depicts the universal theme of Good versus Evil in the context of early Christianity’s beliefs and experiences.
The second theme of the poem is fate, where God controls everything that happens, including people’s destinies. One of the fates of the different tribes in the poem is their endless battles because of their divided loyalties. Beowulf knows and works toward the correction of misdeeds in the past: “I have wrested the hilt/ from the enemies' hand, avenged the evil/ done to the Danes; it is what was due” (Heaney 1668-1670). His statement demonstrates courage, but more than that, it implicates ...Download file to see next pagesRead more
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