In understanding the themes in Beowulf, it is important to note that there are major and minor themes. The also minor themes can not possibly be ignored. To start with, it is important to explore the most outstanding theme which appears to define the virtues and values of Beowulf. The guiding principle has been Beowulf’s loyalty. In supporting the characters and motivations, the theme of loyalty is witnessed when Beowulf assists Danes. There are arguments suggesting that the assistance accorded was for personal reasons so as to build his reputation. The return of the hero in Geatland shows a greater commitment to the Uncle’s protection to a point of risking his life. His consistent loyal character makes the kingdom safe from enemies.
Secondly, the theme of reputation is dominant. The gaining of reputation seems to be the guiding principle behind the actions of Beowulf. The theme has been described as the central theme in the epic. Beowulf is highly concerned about the how he will be perceived by the entire world hence his actions are modeled by that theme. The value that Beowulf attaches to his reputation is witnessed when Unferth verbally assaults him. He considers reputation as a key to immortality. He later leaves gold and returns Grendel’s head and the magic sword hence preferring reputation rather than treasures.
Thirdly, the themes of generosity and hospitality are also very clear. In the Beowulf epic King Hrothgar and the queen further the themes of generosity and hospitality. The king offers land and other treasures to the warriors for their great support to the king in the battle. One of the greatest qualities depicted in the epic is the leader’s generosity. The king is portrayed as the sole giver of property and life. The weapons, land and other possessions are largely controlled and managed by the king. The generosity is witnessed enjoyed by those who give services to the King.
Fourth, the epic has a clear demonstration of envy. At the banquet, the confrontation of Beowulf by Unferth is triggered by jealousy. The monster in the epic is compared to the biblical Cain and Abel. The killing due to jealousy as depicted in the story of Cain and Abel is also clear in the epic.
Fifth, revenge just like reputation is a theme which carries a motivating effect. Grendel pursues revenge. The theme is depicted in the Grendel’s raiding of Heorot whereby she seeks to destroy him. Her fighting with Beowulf is also motivated by revenge. The use of Beowulf’s abilities and magic from God are the only aiding tools which can assist Beowulf to defeat her. The revenge in the poem is the cause of the death..
Sixth, the theme of good against evil is witnessed. The poem rotates around characters taking sides whereby two groups which are either good or evil get to take sides. The two divisions are focused on the desire to defeat one another. One group believes that the other has some powers which ought to be defeated hence the battle becomes supernatural.
The identity theme is can not go unnoticed. Different characters are fighting to achieve the sense of identity. The theme is witnessed when different characters are trying to identify who they are and how many people can trust them. This mainly means that many of them are searching achievements so as to create positive reputation. The identifying of whether it is evil or good has been buried under the theme of identity. Strength and skill is witnessed whereby the main obsession among the warriors is having greater skills that they can display. The physical might and the existence of unique fighting skills is dominant in the poem.
Wealth which is a prevailing issue in the culture of great warriors in Scandinavian society and England is extensively covered in the poem. The kings giving of the gold and other treasures is an indication of the wealth preference in the society. Religion is a main theme in the epic. The fact that the Story is told in the last stage of the Medieval Anglo-Saxon Britain whereby the society was highly Christianized explains the Christian tendencies. The time of the story is defined by the fact that early medieval Scandinavia is characterized by pagan societies. Violence was acceptable in the lives of worriers in the Scandinavia societies. The warrior’s reputation was designed through the killing of demons and this was achievable through the use of circumstantial violence. The blood shedding in the poem means glory to the warrior. The violence in the battle field is not to kill but to tear the enemy into pieces.
The Beowulf theme of courage is an explanation of the society’s preferred values specifically to the worriers. The warrior’s bravery is a mandatory requirement which must be portrayed in the battlefield. The warrior must meet the opponents with bravery even at the pain of death. It is referred to as the fatalistic code.
There are numerous themes in the poem. There are some which are minor and others are major themes. The discussion above clearly discusses different themes according to the poem.
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