Beowulf The Poem Its Background and Its Style

Despite its age and seeming isolation, the Beowulf poet seems to have been familiar with the Christian religion and its symbols. Perhaps because it was written down by scribes, who were most likely associated with the church, it gained its Christian concepts or perhaps these symbols from the Old Testament were present in the poem beforehand. An examination of the Christian overtones and fundamental principles of the story reveals that the Old Heroic Code actually had much in common with the Christian ideals and provides a context by which the modern world can begin to see how the Christian religion incorporated itself into ancient English society. The behavior of characters in an epic such as Beowulf typically makes a clear distinction between the concepts of barbarism and civility, morality and immorality as it is seen in the culture from which the epic is produced. Of the characters in this epic, both Beowulf and King Hrothgar are seen as examples of civility – one as civility becoming and one as civility incarnate while they are placed in opposition to characters that can be seen as agents of evil who represent incivility, immorality and an absence of honor. These characters include Grendel, Grendel’s mother and the dragon.The technical elements of Beowulf make it a significant work simply in its structure and development. As has been suggested, the context of the work is significant in itself as it is the oldest known epic poem in English and in its unique development through unknown years of oral tradition and then transcription through the literate Christian monks. These are elements that truly should not be ignored when understanding the work. For example, it is unknown how true the work is to the original culture from which the story was collected. According to Ogilvy and Baker (1983), nothing is known of the manuscript before 1563 when it was known to have been in the possession

Back To Top