The epic of Beowulf is considered by many to be the most important work of "Old English" literature, and it is well deserved of the distinction. The epic tells the story of a hero, a Scandinavian prince named Beowulf, who rids the Danes of the monster Grendel, (supposedly a descendent of Cain, although it is unclear as to the authenticity of this.)It also tells of his exploits fighting Grendel’s mother as well as a Dragon.
The story of Beowulf is just brewing with examples of the different levels of status and success in society.It shows an, if not comprehensive, at least general view of the society at the time it was written.So for this paper I will dive into the story a little and try to pull out some of the themes and character elements that I think relate to the topic of social status and success. Throughout the epic, the storyteller uses many elements to build a certain depth to the characters. Just a few of the important character elements in Beowulf are wealth and honor, Christianity vs. paganism, and man vs. wild themes.
Many of the characters in Beowulf are, like in most epics, defined by their status. But, in addition to status, the Anglo-Saxon culture also adds an element of honor. To the Anglo-Saxons, a character’s importance, as well as their wealth and status, where measured not only in monetary terms, but it was also measured in terms of honor, fame, and accomplishments. Hrothgar, king of the Danes, is one example of the Anglo-Saxon measurement of importance in Beowulf. The story teller describes his wealth and importance, not as mounds of gold or jewels, but instead as his ability to “[lead] the Danes to such glory.
” and as his tendency to “In battle, [leave] the common pasture untouched, and taking no lives.” Through this display of compassion for the commo! ner who doesn’t fight in battles, Hrothgar proves the full extent of his honor and therefore the extent of his wealth and status. Beowulf, .