Essay on Beowulf: Beowulf and early Germanic Life

Submitted By ozayr0197
Words: 359
Pages: 2

Beowulf is probably our best literary picture of early Germanic life as Tacitus described it in Germania in A. D. 98. In particular, it depicts the institution Tacitus called the comitatus almost unchanged after at least 600 years--the small band of warriors committed by oath to accompany their leader wherever he went, fight for him to the death if need by, avenge him or die trying, In return, he was honor-bound to support them ("We eat at Hygelac's table") and,reward them generously (a favorite kenning for a king or other lord was "ring-giver"). It was the height of dishonor to desert one's lord (Wiglad tells Beowulf's cowardly followers at the end that no one will be willing after this to admit being related to them) or for a lord to kill one of his followers. Not only does the epic as a whole reflect these values, but the song sung as entertainment between the fights with Grendel and Grendel's mother presents the same ethic from a slightly different perspective.

In other ways, too, Beowulf presents aspects of Dark Age Germanic life--the community centered around the hall, the lady honoring favored guests with a special cup of wine, the fear of what lay outside in the night and the transitoriness of everything earthly or manmade.

By the time Beowulf was written, England had been Christian for a little over 100 years, although there is no explicit reference to Christianity in the poem, it contains many Old Testament references and in many ways reflects Christian…