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Christian References in Beowulf, and the Themes Foreshadowing His Hubristic Demise

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Christian References in Beowulf, and the Themes Foreshadowing His Hubristic Demise

Throughout the epic poem Beowulf there are many themes that often foreshadow succeeding events that occur throughout the story, these themes are often affiliated with Christian references, validating the long-debated thought that the Christian author was writing this story, illustrating his own knowledge of doctrine for an audience also familiar with Christianity. As the story develops, the themes are introduced chronologically, yet interact with one another, cluing the reader in on succeeding events that will occurr. The first theme that we encounter is the theme of good versus evil, which is supported by the various supernatural adversaries and the traits of a hero as defined by the heroic code; which consists of strength, courage and loyalty. These fictional adversaries, as well as the tragic flaws associated with the heroic code coincide with adversaries throughout various parables in the Bible, as well as some of the deadly sins. The next theme that we encounter is the comparison and contrasting of young and old that is exemplified through Beowulf both as a young warrior, and wise, prosperous king. The third theme demonstrates the climactic theme of life and death, which is inherently important throughout the story because of the fact that one was known only by their lineage, the heirs they produce, and the prominence and accolades established throughout their lifetime. As life and death is explored, we begin to see the hubristic traits that develop as Beowulf grows older. The central ideas of good versus evil, comparing and contrasting young and old, as well as the final theme of life and death, chronologically illustrate the positive and negative characteristics of Beowulf, while the references toward Christianity only strengthen the story's Christian affiliations, ultimately foreshadowing Beowulf's sinful and hubristic demise.

Illustrating the context of the time-period that this story was recorded, is the historical background, which occurred during this Pre-Christian revolution. During the time period of 700-1000 A.D., in which this poem was written, Christianity had been present throughout more civilized parts of Europe for hundreds of years. The first discovery of the British by the Romans was made during the time period of Julius Caesar in 39-42 B.C. (Selden 1682). Succeeding this discovery, a roman politician and army-general by the name of Aulus Plautius was sent to Britain in 44 A.D., spearheading the Roman Conquest of Britain and serving as the first Governor of the new province (Old English Literature). Following the conquest, Britain was ruled under it's first Christian king in 183 A.D., with the various Germanic tribes arriving from Germany in 428 A.D., evolving the language in which the epic poem was recorded (Selden 1682). Although this work was written after the Christian movement had begun in the Anglo-Saxon culture, some pagan traditions that had dominated their culture is still evident throughout various instances in the story, such as the reoccurring themes of pride and vengeance (Christianity in Beowulf). Although these themes are evident, they do not undermine the parallelisms of the plot, which coincides with various aspects of Christianity; foreshadowing Beowulf's gradual struggle as he becomes more attached to his own vices.

Good versus evil is a theme that has always posed an integral moral conflict in societies throughout the world. In order for something or someone to be good, one must fulfill the necessary societal expectations; but in addition to that, there must be things in the world that are bad in order for humanity to appreciate and understand what is actually considered to be good. An exemplary instance relating to this understanding of moral conflict within Beowulf, are the monsters of Grendel and his mother. The descendants of Cain embody the sins of envy and murderous hatred which will destroy Hereot, forcing its people to understand how the once goodness of their land must now endure the consequences of their leader's sinful actions (Goldsmith 75). In addition to foreshadowing later events of the story, Goldsmith also states that this Christian and biblical reference validates that the author's writing of the tale was geared toward a Christian audience of the time period whom had been equipped with knowledge of some Old Testament doctrine, yet still demonstrated pagan characteristics, affirming the evolving societal change regarding religion (75).

Additionally, aspects of good are exemplified through Beowulf's embodiment of the Germanic Heroic Code. The heroic code, in regards to warriors, calls for valuing the disciplines of strength, courage, and loyalty. Beowulf is the epitome of a great warrior, and was known throughout the land as someone



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