Essays on Beowulf - About the Poem

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The tale of Beowulf is interesting in both its context and content. The tale follows the English form of epic prose, has components of germanic folklore and reflects the transitional aspects of pagan to Christianity of the time period. The poet seems to parallel the pagan Germanic past with the pre-Christian world of the Old Testament with the aim of demonstrating the prefiguration of the Christian world in his native heritage. This is reflected in Hrothgar's advice to Beowulf to protect himself from bealonid by choosing eternal counsel. It is Beowulf's pride,--- his excessive seeking after worldly satisfaction,--- against which Hrothgar specifically warns when he speaks of the man who is so concerned with getting (worldly goods and honor) that he forgets that his part in the world will come to an end.

It is a prideful act that ultimately brings Beowulf to confrontation with a dragon. The dragon is caught up in revenge for the act of stealing a single cup by a slave who then gives the cup to Beowulf. It is the pride inherent in the acceptance of worldly goods, as symbolized by the cup, that brings Beowulf to battle with dragon. Again, in his pride, he believes he is able to do battle on his own without assistance from mortals or Gods. It seems almost fitting that the dragon and Beowulf should end their days together inasmuch as their lives paralleled each other's to a degree. The dragon and Beowulf are both in their decline, have lived lives of acquiring goods and honors (fear for the dragon is an honor equal to Beowulf's being King). The people speak of the King and the Dragon according to their feats and acquisitions - in other words, Beowulf and the dragon are both seen as basking in the pride of their accomplishments and also relying on the past glories rather than on the counsel of God to bring them continued victories. Neither succeeds - as seen in the advice given to Beowulf by Hrothgar.

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