Beowulf: The Culture Of The Anglo-Saxon Warriors (Essay Sample)
While the development of Western civilization was the product of numerous influences over three millennia, the coming together of three major phenomena is most responsible for its unique character. You have already studied two of them: the tradition of rationalism and political sophistication represented by classical Greece and Rome and the Judeo-Christian theology of a monotheistic God who acts in history. Beowulf asks us to think about the third important strand: the contributions of the Germanic warrior culture that replaced the Romans as the dominant force in Western Europe beginning in the fifth century AD. Germans in Central Europe, Franks who settled in Roman Gaul (modern France), Visigoths who conquered Spain, ancestors of the Vikings who settled Scandinavia, and Anglo-Saxons who conquered the British Celts all belonged to this culture. Just as the plays of Aristophanes helped us gain insight into fifth-century BC Athens, so too Beowulf can help us get into the mind of these medieval Germanic warriors and the culture they created.
The contrasts between Aristophanes’s Athens and the early medieval Europe of Beowulf’s time are obvious and telling. Athens was urban, cultured, diverse, literate and politically sophisticated. Its people created and appreciated great art, music, poetry, and literature. Early medieval Europe was rural, decentralized, illiterate, endlessly violent, and tribal. The places where the works were performed are telling as well. Aristophanes’s plays were performed from written scripts, under a warm Mediterranean sun in outdoor theatres holding thousands of people many of them foreign traders from places hundreds of miles away. Epics and myths like those set down in Beowulf would have been performed by an illiterate bard who had memorized them. His audience would have consisted of a local “lord” (who was typically nothing more than a head man of a small tribe) and his retainers, sitting in a large, drafty wooden barn that served as his hall. The audience, perhaps none of whom had ever traveled more than a few miles from their birthplaces and none of whom could read, would be gathered around a fire built in the middle of the hall with the smoke escaping from a hole cut in the roof. In winter this hall would have been dark and cold, and it smelled of wood smoke, unwashed bodies, and the manure of farm animals that lived with the humans for protection and for the heat their bodies contributed. This is the primitive world both of Beowulf and of the people who listened to tales like it during the medieval period. Yet from this world would spring, among other things, remarkable achievements like the English legal and political culture with its emphasis on personal liberty and the rule of law.
In a four-page paper you are to explore this strange, but in many ways familiar, society. First, very briefly describe the plot of the poem. Then analyze and describe the major characteristics of medieval warrior society it describes. What was important to these people? How were men supposed to act? What motivated them? What kinds of characteristics did they value and why? What kind of character traits do they disdain and why? What made for a good leader in this society? What role did women play in this poem? What does that tell us about their position in early medieval society? Always support your observations by specific reference to the text of the poem. In what ways would a society organized around the principles described in Beowulf be hindered from developing the kind of sophisticated society characterized by ancient Greece? You must provide specific examples from the text to support your analysis and all references to the text must be accompanied by specific line (not page) citations. Failure to do so will result in zero credit for the paper.
Your essay is to be four or more pages long, double-spaced, with one-inch margins, and paragraphs separated by one double space only. Make sure your essay is well organized, well written, and has a proper introduction and conclusion. Your essay should be free of typographical errors and spelling mistakes. Use twelve-point font size (preferably Courier or Times New Roman). Be sure to consult the style guidelines for paper writing you received at the beginning of the course. No cover sheets please.
Seamus Heany version please
Beowulf is an epic piece of poetry that encapsulates a rejuvenating atmosphere using imagery in depicting the culture of the Anglo-Saxon warriors who went to war with monsters in the Scandinavian Peninsula. There are instances in the literary piece that breaks the rules of modern English because it is a masterpiece molded in the classical 5th century Britain. To this date, it is a significant work of English literature.
Plot of the poem
The setting is in Denmark during the reign of King Hrothgar. He has built a marvelous entertainment yard called the Heorot for his warriors where the soldiers dine, wine and merry in jubilation. Within the kingdom there is a swamp where a revered demon called Grendel lives. The demon is a nightmare to the inhabitants of the kingdom as it terrorizes them, killing many of them and so, they are conditioned to living in constant fear of the monster attack.
A young warrior called Beowulf, from Geatland is told about the Grendel and decides to go to battle with the monster. The king allows the young warrior to challenge the monster amid skepticism from the Danish warriors, Beowulf defeats the monster and savors its arm wounding it fatally.
While his victory is celebrated all over the kingdom and a feast in his honor held, the Grendel’s mother, who is revered more than the Grendel is agitated and seeks to revenge her son’s death. She too is killed in battle by the young warrior Beowulf in her swamp and he manages to decapitate the head of the Grendel’s corpse, bringing it back to the throne as a prize.he becomes famous throughout the kingdom but he has to go back to Geatland where he ascends to the throne upon the death of the king of Geatland. His reign lasts fifty years of prosperity but tragedy strikes when a thief attempts to steal a horde of treasure buried in a mound. He in the process disturbs a dragon hidden within the mound, which unleashes terror and destruction to Geatland. The King, Beowulf fights and slays the dragon but costly implications. The dragon bites Beowulf injecting him with a deadly venom which kills him as well. His wish to have his body burnt is fulfilled in a massive burial.
Characteristics of medieval warrior societies
The medieval societies of the time of Beowulf treasure heroism. The heroic code embodies the persona of Beowulf’ through his acts of bravery. The Anglo-Saxon society greatly value their warriors and their Kings go to great lengths to ensure their warriors are generously pampered with gifts and other niceties. They ensure that those they defeat pay tribute to them by seizing treasure and gold from them. Bravery is exhibited by Beowulf when he approached the Grendel and devours it in a fierce battle, he later defeats and kills its mother, which is revered b
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