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11. The poem deals with only one aspect of Anglo-Saxon society: the kings and the warriors. The thief who steals the cup from the dragon is perhaps the only character in the poem who isn't a member of the aristocracy. The life of the kings and the warriors is very formal and ritualistic. Their main forms of relaxation tend to be simple ones, like eating and drinking. Discuss women's role in the society and mention the women characters whom you think are most important.
12. Beowulf fits into the epic tradition that began with Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey and Virgil's The Aeneid. Like these earlier poems, Beowulf deals with a few heroic events in the life of a single individual. Through an examination of this person's life the epic poet attempts to reflect the history of his time. (It would be a good idea to read the earlier epic poems and compare them to Beowulf.) Note the dignity of the style and tone, and the way past events are woven into the main narrative. Analyze Beowulf's relation to Hrothgar and Higlac, his feelings about the feud between the Danes and the Hathobards, and how his personality embodies the most important characteristic and conflicts of Anglo-Saxon society.
13. The poet was indebted to the Christian tradition as it existed in England at the end of the seventh century. His point of view, his references to the Bible, his ethical standards are all Christian; he's attempting to blend the pagan concept of fate with the Christian idea of grace. Beowulf defeats Unferth not by force, but by example, and Unferth hands over his sword, symbol of his strength. The audience for whom the poet was writing was obviously familiar with the Christian references. At the approximate time that the poem was composed, most of the Anglo-Saxon world had converted to Christianity. It might be said that Beowulf was a pagan epic adapted to the feelings of a Christian world.
14. The monsters are necessary to the poem so that Beowulf can prove his heroic qualities. Beowulf is described as "the strongest man in the world" and in order to prove himself as a hero he has to fight against something super-human. Although the monsters possess evil qualities that doesn't mean that Beowulf and the warriors are necessarily good. Analyze the characteristics of pagan society: the feuds, the conspiracies, the emphasis on material goods, the endless wars between countries. It's a society where killing is accepted and rewarded. In the poet's mind, society was as much a threat to itself as the monsters were.
15. The poem begins on a positive note: it's the beginning of a new reign of prosperity for the Danish people. The bond between king and warrior-comitatus-has never been stronger. A heroic figure like Beowulf is an accepted figure in this world. The way to win glory and fame is by risking your life and performing acts of extreme bravery and courage. By the end of the poem we see how the value of the bond between warrior and king has diminished in importance. Beowulf strives to perform one last heroic act-killing the dragon-and loses his life. The Geat dynasty is on the brink of disaster. The Danes are about to enter a feud with the Hathobards. Christianity is replacing paganism as the basis for ethical conduct.