Courage In Beowulf Literature Reviews Examples

Type of paper: Literature Review

Topic: Beowulf, Ethics, Courage, Anglo Saxon, Honor, Society, Virtue, Literature

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2020/12/12

Values in Anglo-Saxon Societies in Beowulf

Introduction
Anglo-Saxons are believed to have descended from Germanic tribes that invaded Britain and overran the Roman Empire between 5th and 6th century. Since settling in Britain, these Germanic tribes pushed the Celts, Britain’s native inhabitants, into the north and became the dominant occupant of the region. The Anglo-Saxons are war mongering people. As observed, “Fighting was a way of life, and not to avenge the death of a family member was a social disgrace, so endlessly intricate blood-feuds generated perpetual excuses for going to war”. During the 6th century A.D., these pagan Germanic tribes were gradually converted to Christianity. It was also during this transition period that some unknown poet wrote the epic of Beowulf. In their way of life, certain values such as courage and honor are desired. Being the oldest literary piece that was discovered during this period, Beowulf reflects these values that are dominant in the culture of Anglo-Saxons.

Being a war mongering people, Anglo-Saxons are believed to prefer war more than peace. For the same reason, courage is an important virtue in their society. Courage is the ability to face danger with determination. As observed by Walton, one important component of courage is personal commitment. Most often, in exhibiting courage, the act may involve risking one’s safety. The existence of personal commitment to accomplish something is what separates courage from mere foolishness of placing one’s self in the face of danger. The virtue of courage is heavily reflected in the Beowulf epic. For the same reason, it can be deduced that such virtue is highly valued in the Anglo-Saxon society. Several lines in the poem reflect their high regards to the virtue of courage. In fact, the word courage can be observed in the first line of the epic where it says: “So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness”. Beowulf, the hero of the story, was introduced as a “man whose name was known for courage”. He is consequently pictured as a fearless man who braved storms, giant monsters and dragons. Courage is also strongly reflected in Beowulf’s character in his eagerness in accepting challenges and adventures.

Honor in Beowulf

The Anglo-Saxons does not only value courage but also honor. Spoils of war, for example, are not regarded as legitimate trophies unless they are won by valor. Mischievousness and deception seems to have no place in the Anglo-Saxon society because of their high regards to honor. In Beowulf, honor was a major theme. The Beowulf setting is pictured by Heaney as “a pagan Germanic society governed by heroic code of honour, one where the attainment of a name for warrior-prowess among the living overwhelms any concern about the soul’s destiny in afterlife”. Evidently, even before Christianity shaped the morality of the Anglo-Saxons, honor, as a desirable virtue is already established in their society. In several instances, Beowulf and other characters in the story showed their high regards to honor. One particular instance was when the coastguard of the Danes allowed Beowulf and his men to pass. After bidding them to proceed to their destination, the leader of the coastguard swore on his men’s honor to guard the ships of Beowulf and his companions. It is also interesting to note how the Anglo-Saxons, as early as this age, observe courtesies and formalities. In a sense, their observance of courtesies and formalities strengthens the fact that they are indeed honorable people.

Conclusion

Being the oldest literary work of Anglo-Saxon origin, Beowulf has an underlying account of what values the early Anglo-Saxon societies are adhering to. Beowulf, can therefore, be considered as a rich resource for determining the values of the early Anglo-Saxon society. Even in the early warmongering society of the Anglo-Saxons, the virtue of courage and honor are already highly regarded. As a result, these values are heavily reflected in the epic poem of Beowulf.

References

Delahoyde, M. (n.d.). ANGLO-SAXON CULTURE. Retrieved March 2015, from http://public.wsu.edu/: http://public.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/medieval/anglo-saxon.html
Heaney, S. (2000). Beowulf. Retrieved March 2015, from http://staff.orecity.k12.or.us/greg.hellman/Greg_Hellman/Humanities_files/00%20Heaney%20Beowulf%20text.pdf
Tharaud, B. (1996). Anglo-Saxon Language and Traditions in Beowulf. Retrieved March 2015, from http://wilmeshonorsbritishlit.weebly.com/: http://wilmeshonorsbritishlit.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/4/5/13454903/anglosaxon_beowulf_article.pdf
Walton, D. (1987, December). The Virtue of Courage. Retrieved March 2015, from http://www.dougwalton.ca/: http://www.dougwalton.ca/papers%20in%20pdf/87courage.pdf

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