Critical Analysis of a Passage in Beowulf


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Critical Analysis of a Passage in Beowulf

The poem Beowulf is an ancient poem set in the historical, ancient English times. In the story, Beowulf, the hero, comes to help the king of Danes when his great hall becomes occupied by Grendel the monster. He kills the monster with his hands and goes on to kill the monsters mother using his sword. Later, Beowulf becomes king of the kingdom of Geats which also becomes plagued by a dragon. However, this time he does not succeed in killing the enemy. He gets fatally wounded and later dies from the wounds he sustained when he dared to slay the dragon. This poem can be said to be an epic one since its main character is a hero who goes to great extends just to prove his strength. This paper will analyze a number of passages that will put the poem in the context of the themes used and the historical context of the work.

The first line in the poem can be used to analyze the historical context of the poem. The speaker indicates that the Spear- Danes clan used to exist in days that have ‘gone by’, and that during these times, heroic kings did exist. The second tells us that kings were heroic because they could pillage and rampage with the best warriors in mead halls, and in the battlefields. These passages tell us that the time the speaker is talking about are the ancient English times that were dominated by heroic kings, battles and celebration of victory in the mead halls. The passage also insinuates a period dominated by legends some of which contain real historic events and elements that are fictional. One can, therefore, guess and place this poem through the events described by the author, in the ancient Scandinavian periods that highly treasured heroism and battles.

Another passage that is of importance to this poem is when Grendel the demon attacks the king’s hall and kills thirty men. The king becomes humiliated by the fact that he could not protect his people from the demon. The demon repeats his rampages each night and kills more men. The demon rules the hall for twelve years. A great warrior who lives across the waters from the village decides to help. He gathers men to help him kill the demon. The warrior, Beowulf says that he will kill the demon by hands. He finally defeats the demon. This passage relates to a number of themes in the text. One theme that is apparent throughout the poem is the theme of heroism. Beowulf moves from his home across the waters to come proof his strength and heroic status to the Hrothgar’s clan. He has heard that there is a demon that terrorizes the village at night and he decides to rescue the clan from the terror of the demon. This goes hand in hand with the theme of heroism in the book which requires one to proof their strength and heroism. He even boasts that he will slay the demon with his bare hands. He goes ahead and slays the demon without a sword. This theme is constantly displayed throughout the poem but this passage is one of the first passages that display the theme abundantly.