Christian Elements In Beowulf

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The study of Anglo-Saxon literature cannot be complete without an in-depth analysis of, ‘Beowulf’, one of the oldest and greatest poems ever written in the history of English Literature. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to introduce Beowulf as the epic of English poems and to describe features that make this poem an indispensible part of English literary history twelve hundred years down the road. Unfortunately, due to cultural and political turmoil, much of Anglo-Saxon literature was destroyed by the time it reached us. Amongst few of the rare surviving works is Beowulf, a three thousand lines poem with an origin not to be exactly known. According to the Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol.1, the title of the poem too has…show more content…
To answer this, one would have to go back into history and discover the acceptance of Christianity amongst the Anglo-Saxons. According to history, Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons kingdoms began in AD 597 and was introduced by the first Archbishop of Canterburry, Augustine in 597AD. He had officially baptized the first Christian Anglo-Saxon King, Ethelberht of Kent in 601 and so considering the estimated date of Beowulf being first written somewhere between 700 and 750 AD, one can safely assume that the religion was very much part of the Anglo-Saxon culture. Famous critic and translator of Beowulf, J.R.R Tolkien says Beowufl is more like a long, lyrical clergy than an epic. He also suggests that the poem reflects the preChristian past [Tolkein, 1936]3. The text further gives evidence of it being a Christian poem when after slaying the slave, Beowulf presents to Hrothgar the hilt of his sword on which was engraved the slaying of giants as depicted in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 6:4, Beowulf, lines 1690-950)[Bodek,2004]. The question of whether Beowulf is a Christian or pagan poem is still largely debated. However, this confusion does not take away the central characteristics of the poem, which is its epic descriptions of war, its vivid imagery and glorifying of a hero which later acted as a style for poets and dramatists to personify their…show more content…
In 1885, Eduard Sievers a German critic of Anglo-Saxon thoroughly explained the nature of Anglo-Saxon poetic metrics in his book, “Altergermanische Metriks,” afterwhich his five basic types of rhythms became the standard for metrical studies of all Anglo-Saxon poetry, including Beowulf.[Kelly,1981] The metre of Beowulf is thus what Fabb calls a, “patterning metre”, one based on alternations between strong and weak elements as opposed to purely mora-counting metres such as Japanese haiku [Getty,2011]5 The manuscript Beowulf is divided into forty-three sections, calledfitts, each indicated by a Roman numeral, a large capital letter, or (most often) both. The fitts seem for the most part to mark off important sections of the poem, and it is generally believed (despite some sharp objections) that their placement was the work of the

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