Sample Literature Analysis Paper of Beowulf
The Middle Ages is the period between the 5th century and the 15th century A.D. This historical period is the one that succeeded classical antiquity and preceded the modern times that continue to this day (Stone & Cane 4). The Middle ages are well known for their religious fervor and a lack of scientific progress and innovation. Art during his period was precise and narrowed down to specific themes that were of interest to the society. Additionally, this was a time in which communities and empires engaged in various conflicts as people believed in the existence of supernatural powers and beings (Stone & Cane 9). Beowulf is an ancient medieval poem composed between 975 and 1025 A.D. The author of the poem is an anonymous poet of Anglo-Saxon origin who has been referred to in the literature as the Beowulf poet (Kiernan 34). The poem has 3182 alternating lines, and it is the oldest known surviving poem in the history of English literature. The setting of the art is in the Scandinavian featuring the heroic actions of Beowulf who is the protagonist in the poem.
The Anglo-Saxons are a group of people of German origin who, during the creation of the poem, were in the process of migrating from the region of modern day Germany to England (Kiernan 53). It is assumed that during the time of the poem the Anglo-Saxon were still in contact with their German brethren. The poem is a narrative of the legend of Beowulf, that is, the protagonist of the poem (Niles 23). The poem depicts him as a gifted and a fearless man; “And now the bold one from bands of Geat comrades chose, the keenest of warriors e’er he could find” (Kiernan 6). The main theme of the poem is heroism; this is the topic that is addressed throughout the poem from one battle to the other, from which the protagonist always comes out as a victor. In the poem setup, heroism encompasses the character trait of bravery as exhibited by an individual. The Anglo-Saxon community placed value in warlike practices, making heroism something to be admired.
Beowulf, in the beginning of the poem, goes to help King Hrothgar whose territory has been under attack by a monster. Grendel, the monster, has defeated the King who had been about to abandon all hope when Beowulf came to his aid (Kiernan 77). The monster had attacked the mead hall, a crucial facility for the kingdom. In a show of heroism, Beowulf killed Grendel with his bare hands, an action that clearly demonstrated his nature as true hero. After the death of the Grendel, the monsters’ mother attacked the kingdom causing restlessness and discomfort in the palace. Beowulf rose once again and killed the monsters’ mother, thereby reconfirming his status as a hero (Niles 64). The attributes associated with heroism in addition to performing great tasks are integrity and loyalty; Beowulf is shown to possess both of these traits from the first part of the poem to the end in the manner in which he serves his people.
After killing both Grendel and his mother, the protagonist returned home to a heroic welcome where he was crowned the king of the Great Kingdom (Kiernan 95). His rule was indisputable, until he got into a battle with a dragon fifty years after taking over power. The theme of heroism becomes evident again as Beowulf manages to kill the dragon (Kiernan 97). The dragon was well known for its prowess in war and its history of winning battles. However, when the fight begins, the protagonist battles to his last breath, which is a show of might and heroism all by itself. In the course of the fight, Beowulf sustained severe injuries, a fact that demonstrated his will to fight the dragon to the last blood. After the battle, every member of the community appreciated the protagonist’s prowess in war and the intelligence which he applied to win the battle (Niles 67). In the poem the people believe in Beowulf’s abilities: “For fight defensive, Friend my Beowulf, to succor and save, thou hast sought us here” (Kiernan 6).
Beowulf’s loyalty is shown throughout the poem as he repeatedly put his life in danger to save the lives of his people and protect them from various threats. An example of his loyalty is in the line where he got into a battle with the monster to save the Kingdom of Danes. Towards the end of the poem, the protagonist decided to lay down his life for the safety of the people he ruled (Niles 70). Beowulf ultimately died a hero leaving behind a memory of wit and heroism.
When he died, the people made a heroic sendoff by cremating his corpse and erecting a monument that would serve as a reminder of his great deeds (Kiernan 101). The erecting of a monument is clear proof that heroes are loved by the community they defend in times of need. In the Middle ages, heroes and kings were supposed to sacrifice their lives the sake of their people and thereby become the object of adoration and respect. In the Anglo – Saxon culture, this eagerness to sacrifice oneself was complemented by special traits that distinguished heroes from the rest of the community. Heroes were believed to be strong, bold, fearless, and indifferent to pain, these are characters that are not found in the ordinary civilians.
Beowulf is a medieval poem that is about heroism, a set of outstanding traits that used to be highly valued by the middle age society of Anglo-Saxons. The protagonist in the poem is a warrior who is bold, fearless, strong and loyal, which are signature traits of a hero. Beowulf fought battles to keep the community and his master, the king, safe. Furthermore, he fights a dragon and wins although he sustained injuries that would later cause his death. Finally, as a king, the protagonist laid down his life for the sake of his people demonstrating the heroic quality of loyalty for all to see.
Kiernan, Kevin S. Beowulf and the Beowulf manuscript. University of Michigan Press, 1996.
Niles, John D. Beowulf: The poem and its tradition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983.
Stone, Lawrence, and Cane Ridge. The Middle Ages. London: Penguin, 1955.