ENGLISH FINAL PAPER

ENGLISH FINAL PAPER - Sarah Benton 5/6/09 English Classics...

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Sarah Benton English Classics Online Final Thesis 5/6/09 Beowulf, the classic epic poem from the eighth century, has strong themes of medieval Christianity and ancient Paganism throughout its entirety. These themes are explored through different characters, and the social views on each religion are shown using the morality and heroism of the characters. Back-stories provided by supporting characters lead the reader to see the positive Christian or negative Pagan values throughout the work. Characters such as Beowulf and his men are portrayed using the medieval Germanic heroic code, as strong, heroic, loyal warriors, while King Hrothgar and his men are portrayed as pagans who are only interested in generally debaucherous activities such as womanizing and drinking rather than heroism, chivalry and courage. The unknown author’s portrayal of these groups in such a manner reflects his views, and ultimately the views of the time and area. Medieval Christianity and ancient Paganism were two constantly fighting religions, so to speak, during the time the Beowulf was written. It was not until the late tenth century that Christianity started to truly emerge as the stronger and more widely followed and regarded religion, but Beowulf marked the beginning of the change from an ancient Pagan mindset in which
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debauchery in order to prove manly hood was considered alright, to a mindset in which chivalry and citizenship were the ideal qualities in a person. During the eighth century, medieval Christianity was still vastly unheard of, especially in the northern European area. Some groups had adopted the new religion, while others still practiced ancient Paganism. At the time Beowulf was written, however, medieval Christianity was gaining more and more followers, and was viewed by most to be the more genteel religion. Medieval Christian values included valor, loyalty, courage, generosity, chivalry and heroism. To have all of these traits, especially in a strong warrior, was the epitome of the medieval Christian faith base, and as such, Beowulf was a character to be envied. While Beowulf is never directly said to be the better character, the writer compares his traits several times to those of King Hrothgar, obviously insinuating that while a lowly, young warrior at the time, Beowulf is the more moral of the two. By doing
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ENGLISH FINAL PAPER - Sarah Benton 5/6/09 English Classics...

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