Heroic Age in Beowulf

Heroic Age in Beowulf

Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry, even as we have it, is the product of a pagan heroic society. 'No where else is a traditional theme handled in a long narrative poem against a background which reveals to us the culture and society of the Heroic Age of the Germanic people' - ( David Daiches)

Life depicted in Beowulf shows tribes or communities headed by valiant king. He epitomises ideals of courage, self-sacrifice, Generosity and moral integrity. Physical power and martial abilities are regarded essential features of manliness. Beowulf wins fame by killing monster. He is chosen as the king of Geats automatically when Hyglac's son dies in war. Defeat means ignominy. Unferth jears at Beowulf mentioning his defeat in swimming competition.

Beowulf depicts the bond of commitment between the chief and his retainers. To fight the Dragon is Beowulf's duty; tho stand by Beowulf is Wiglaf's obligation. The king bestows wealth on the deserving warriors. Battles are frequently fought to settle disputes and to assert dominion. Wars for reprisal purpose were common. Revenge is deemed a sacred mission. Hence, the song is felicitation ceremony. 

Heorot, the community hall, plays important role in social life. Here a big assembly enjoy feasting,  discussions, social ceremonies and entertainments, such as, scop-recital. Guests receive high honour. Women too are treated in high respect. In the rewarding ceremony queen Neatheow serves wine and delivers a speech. Hrothgar's songs prove the place of music in pagan culture. Beowulf's swimming competition with Breca points to the popularity of sporting events. Beowulf's funeral is another example of social ceremony. 

Mr. Daiches observes that Beowulf is 'remarkably successful in rendering that combination of heroic idealism and sombre fatalism which seems to have been part of the Germanic temper.' Glory is the golden harvest attainable through heroic death. Death is swift and sudden in the life of noble savages. Hence a spirit of sad resignation to Wyrd. The poem which is a glorification of bold enterprises, leaves a bitter taste ....... or at least impression of universal melancholy.



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