Themes of Beowulf
Reading Beowulf, there are many chances to interpret the characters and dialog. Loyalty, reputation, and generosity are three themes that are quite noticeable throughout the story. In the following paragraphs, you will read about the loyalty that Beowulf has for Hrothgar, the struggle for Beowulf to keep his reputation, and the generosity that was shown by Hrothgar and Wealhtheow.
Loyalty is a major theme throughout Beowulf and is first seen when Beowulf comes to the assistance of the Scyldings. Beowulf has heard of a great monster, Grendel, who has been killing Hrothgar's people. As Beowulf and his men reach the land of Hrothgar, they are greeted by a man who's job it is to watch for danger to the Danish shore. Beowulf says, "So tell us if what we have heard is true about this threat, whatever it is, this danger abroad in the dark nights, this corpse-maker mungering death in the Shieldings' country"(Beowulf 38). By coming to the defense of Hrothgar and his people, Beowulf has accomplished three important acts of loyalty. First, Beowulf is showing loyalty to his own king in Geatland by representing his country and his people. Second, Beowulf is repaying a family debt that extends back to when Beowulf's father, Ecgtheow was king and Hrothgar protected him. Ecgtheow had killed a leader of another tribe in a bloody battle. When the other members of that tribe came after Ecgtheow, Hrothgar hid Ecgtheow and settled the feud by giving treasure to Ecgtheow's enemies. Third, Beowulf's reputation as a brave warrior would increase after the defeat of Grendel. Loyalty is also found in an unexpected character, Wiglaf. During the last battle of Beowulf's life, with the dragon, Beowulf puts his trust in eleven of the finest men who vowed to fight with him. When the men realize that Beowulf is losing against the dragon, all but one man runs and hides in the woods. Wiglaf, "Beowulf's one loyal helper in his last fight,"(Chambers 512) stands...
Cited: Beowulf. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Seventh Edition. Volume 7. Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000. 32-99.
Bjork, Robert E, and John D. Niles., eds. A Beowulf Handbook. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.
Chambers, R.W. Beowulf: An Introduction to the Study of the Poem with a Discussion of the Stories of Offa and Finn. London: Cambridge University Press, 1963.
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