Good Vs Evil Essay Beowulf Poem

Good and Evil in Beowulf

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The story of Beowulf was probably composed in England sometime in the Eighth Century AD, and written down circa 1000 AD, by a literate scop (bard) or perhaps a Christian scribe who was possibly educated in a monastery. The poem was created in oral tradition and was transferred to writing over time. It had its roots in folk tales and traditional stories until some very talented poet put it in something very near to its current form. The poem was more than likely performed for audiences at court or on the road as the scop found audiences to support him.

It was sung or chanted rather than recited it, and usually to the accompaniment of a harp. There was a constant struggle between good and evil in the story. Beowulf, God, and Wiglaf represented good in the poem whereas Grendel, his mother, and Cain portrayed the contrasting side of evil. Beowulf and Grendel represented the ultimate struggle of good and evil. Grendel tried to destroy everything around him while Beowulf tried to do good all the time. The first battle between Beowulf and Grendel, Beowulf was God (good) and Grendel was Cain (evil).

This was actually an allusion from the Bible, the story of Cain and was used to compare God’s feelings of Grendel, a descendant of Cain. The book stated, “…Since Cain had killed his only / Brother, slain his father’s son / with an angry sword. God drove him off, / outlawed him…”. Cain killed his brother because he was evil and God shunned and marked him for his evilness. God used his wrath to take care of Cain. God had the same feelings for Grendel.

Grendel was described as a vicious monster that was an offspring of everything evil, God refused to forgive Grendel and favored Beowulf’s pride over Grendel’s sins. In the battle, God granted Beowulf overwhelming victory. The book stated, “The Ruler of the heavens brought about a right issue, when once more he stood up with ease. ” God stood with ease because the beast he hated, Grendel, was dead. Beowulf was a mighty, honorable hero who had super strength and the ego to match his strength. He defeated Grendel with his bare hands, and then he fought Grendel’s vengeful mother.

Tired and torn, Beowulf, through his goodness, was able to vanquish Grendel’s mother. , At the brink of exhaustion, Beowulf grabbed a monstrous sword and the book continued, “he struck furiously the blade went straight through the doomed body. ” This was the perfect example of goodness. The story of good and evil was told from the beginning of man’s existence. Beowulf, revealed how this was evident and explained the side of good as depicted in the hero Beowulf. Evil was personified in Grendel, Beowulf’s, opposite, the man-eating beast that terrorized humanity.

As long as the delicate balance of good and evil was recognized the characters in the epic related to the concept of good and evil. Good won out every time there was a contest because God wanted good to prevail. Beowulf showed how good was related to evil. This story represented these qualities in both main characters. The struggle began when God allowed Satan dominion over the earth. The battle between them had been recorded throughout literary history. Some of the heroes that had challenged Satan did so to protect the weak. Others fought for fame and glory.

The theme of good vs. evil that was present in the story of Beowulf, it became the classic foundation of many modern stories. Beowulf and Grendel represented the ultimate struggle of good and evil. Grendel tried to destroy everything around him. To Beowulf, this was another conquest. It allowed him to do yet another good deed that people talked about for a long time. Beowulf represented God and Grendel was Satan. The struggle between God and Satan had existed throughout time. Beowulf was all that was good, moral, and ethical. He lived by the rules of God.

Grendel denounced those rules to live by his own. Thinking only of that which gave him pleasure, he attempted to destroy everything good and kind. Truly, Beowulf was like a parent and Grendel was like a child whom he chastised. Beowulf displayed a variety of things that the Anglo-Saxon people valued; many of those traits were expressed through the main character, Beowulf. In him, was seen the qualities of courage, loyalty and a thirst for fame. The character and story also had one running theme throughout, the age-old subject of good versus evil.

Beowulf was the epic hero of this poem. He embodied all the characteristics that a hero should, such as bravery, loyalty and strength, both physical and mental. He was the archetypal hero. He fought for good and represented it as well. Beowulf signified good, but there was a contrasting evil to complete the balance. The monster Grendel and his mother were that evil. The mere look of them left the impression of fear and sin. “He strode quickly across the inlaid floor, snarling and fierce: His eyes gleamed in darkness, burned with a gruesome Light. Their wickedness seemed to spread to their home, infecting the lake in which they lived. “A deer, hunted through the woods by packs of hounds, a stag with great horns, though driven through the forest from faraway places, preferred to die on those shores, refused to save its life in that water. ” This signified good and evil. Beowulf confronted the monsters and defeated them. (Baldwin, 99). With each of the characters representing good and evil respectively, Grendel’s defeat clearly symbolized Beowulf and his goodness overcoming the beasts’ wickedness, just as we would view Christ defeating Satan.

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Throughout history and in endless fairytales, good was always victorious over evil. The white knight always defeated the dragon. This was no exception with Beowulf. Though the poem ended in his demise, Beowulf was remembered for being the hero that saved his people from the evils of their world. In conclusion, in the epic Beowulf, there was a constant struggle between good and evil. Beowulf and Grendel represented the ultimate struggle of good and evil. Grendel tried to destroy everything around him while Beowulf tried to do good all the time.

Author: Allan Leider

in Beowulf

Good and Evil in Beowulf

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“Good vs. Evil” in Beowulf

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“Good vs. Evil” in Beowulf Beowulf is longest and greatest early Anglo-Saxon poem which was composed in England sometime in the eighth century AD by a literate scop. This poem was created in the oral poetic tradition. This poem is considered as an epic because it is a long narrative poem which composed in an elevated style, dealing with the glories of hero (Tolkien 24). The setting of this epic is the six century in Denmark and southern Sweden. The protagonist, Beowulf is a noble warrior represents the goodness battles against the evil monsters- Grendel, Grendel’s mother and the fiery dragon in order to save his country.

Beowulf’s victory over Grendel and his mother shows the power of goodness can defeat the evil forces. Even though Beowulf is killed by the dragon in the end, his heroic death fulfills with courage and glory. He is selfless, even sacrifice himself in order to save his people’s lives; he is loyal to his kingdom all his life (Niles 89). His triumph of glory exposes the major theme of the epic. A major them in Beowulf is “Good vs. Evil” because the warrior Beowulf battles against God’ enemies in order to save God’s people.

Beowulf kills Grendel and becomes a noble hero. The first monster Grendel, “a walker of darkness, he who bides in darkness and the black nights; he is the greatest of the night’s evil” (Halverson 100). Grendel is descended from Cain who has been banished by God far from humankind settles the wilderness after his crime of murdering his brother (Magennis 123). Grendel is a “joyless den” (Halverson 100); he is jealous of the happiness in the noble place, hall Heorot; therefore, his hatred drives him to attack the heroic society as a rejection of God.

As John Leyerle in his work, The Conflicting Demands of Heroic Strength and Kingly Wisdom states, ” Grendel is opposed to God, evil incarnate, and his destruction by Beowulf is a triumph of heroic goodness over devilish evil” (57). This evil monster devours the flesh, blood and bones of many Danes wantonly until the arrival of Beowulf, the noble retainer, has both strong strength and great wisdom. Once he seizes Grendel, he rips Grendel’s right claw from his shoulder by bare hand. Grendel is being defeated, he flees with fatally wounded.

Beowulf’s victory over Grendel is an example of good prevailing over evil. Beowulf’s victory over Grendel’s mother is another example of good prevailing evil. Grendel’s mother is the “monstrous woman” (Chance 108). Her son’s death motivates her to revenge. As in scholar Jane C. Nitzsche’s critical essay, The Structural Unity of Beowulf: The Problem of Grendel’s Mother, states, “Later that night, Grendel’s mother intent on avenging the loss of her son in the present attacks Heorot, her masculine aggression contrasting with the feminine passivity of both Hildeburh and Wealhtheow”(287-303).

She performs the role of avenger for the revenge of loss of her son in the battle. Her hatred and vengeance to the heroic society becomes evil. At night, she retrieves her son’s claw and murderously abducts one of the Scyldings. Beowulf, with his heroic ethic, is a strong-willed leader. “He is a man with a personal sense of mission. His fine-gear is not merely the affection of pride, but the outward promise of strong action, equipment deserting respect” (Swanton 78). Beowulf, with a powerful mail-shirt and carrying a sword of Hrunting, dives into the deep lake to seek Grendel’s mother.

Beowulf uses his sword to kill Grendel’s mother, but it is not strong enough to penetrate the ogre’s skin. Grendel’s mother tries to fight back with her knife, but Beowulf’s mail-shirt protects him. Suddenly Beowulf spots a magical, giant sword and uses it to cut through the monster’s spine at the neck, killing her. A brilliant light illuminates the cavern, disclosing Grendel’s corpse. He cut out Grendel’s head which is a symbol of his victory over both ogres. Beowulf battles against the evil dragon in order to save his people’s lives.

In Beowulf’s third battle, his opponent, the fierce dragon tires to destroy the country as retribution because a theft steals a valuable cup from his hoard; “The dragon as creature more evil than any human enemy of house or realm… he is cruel, malicious and generally destructive to men and their work… a destructive force of nature functioning like an agent of fate” (Tolkein 105-113). The dragon is the evil force like Grendel; it directs his wrath towards the dwelling of men (Halverson 103). Beowulf is “an agent of God” (Huppe 85), “a warrior brave and gentle, blameless in thought and deed” (Niles 89).

His battle against the evil dragon is not merely for his glory and praise but rather for the people of his country. In scholar R. E. Kaske’s work, The Governing Theme of Beowulf. Beowulf: the Donaldson Translation Backgrounds and Sources Criticism, he mentions, “For one thing, the theme of Beowulf’s defending the Great nation certainly gains added significance from his not only facing death, but undergoing it bravely and willing for his people’s sake” (127). Beowulf remains loyal to God and his people as a model of heroic conduct (Magennis 120).

He has the courage that he is willing to sacrifice himself in order to save his people’s lives. Even though Beowulf is old and his strength becomes weak, he still insists on fighting the dragon alone. However, his trusted sword, Naegling, is no use for fighting the monster. Seeing his king in trouble, Wiglaf, a young warrior goes to assist Beowulf. They finally kill the dragon, but Beowulf is also mortally wounded in the battle. After dying, Beowulf becomes the epic hero, whose body is buried with highly glory and treasures in his funeral on the top of the barrow.

In Colin Campbell’s This Old Dragon Still Breathes Fire, he mentions the following: The fallen hero- king is placed upon a pyre and given over the flames amid the lamentations of his people. They erect over his ashes a royal barrow in which they hide the dragon’s treasure. Twelve warriors circle the mound on stalwart seeds, praising the virtues of their slain leader (15-16). This is also an example of good prevails evil since the evil dragon is being defeated even though Beowulf, the epic hero sacrifices himself in the end.

Through Beowulf’s battles against those three evil monsters, Grendel, Gendel’s mother and the fierce dragon, exposes the major theme in the epic, “Good vs. Evil”. Beowulf, the epic hero remains loyal to his kingdom and his people. He performs God’s duty to eliminate all the evil forces in order to save God’s people. His victories on Grendel and his mother show the power of goodness prevails evil. Even though he sacrifices himself, the evil dragon is killed in the end. His heroic death is fulfilled with glory and praise. Work Cited Beowulf. Trans. by Burton Rafil.

Holt Press, New York, 1984. Campbell, Colin. “This Old Dragon Still Breathes Fire. ” Christian Science Monitor 92 13 April 2000 Online Edition. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Thomson Gale. 11 Apr 2005 . Chance, Jane. “Grendel’s Mother and the Women in Beowulf. ” Readings on Beowulf. Ed. Bruno Leone, Brenda Stalcup, and Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998. 107-111. Halverson, John. “The Struggle between Order and Chaos in Beowulf. ” Readings on Beowulf. Ed. Bruno Leone, Brenda Stalcup, and Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998. 9-106. Huppe, Bernard F. “The Failure of the Heoric Ideal. ” Readings on Beowulf. Ed. Bruno Leone, Brenda Stalcup, and Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998. 82-88. Kaske, R. E. “The Governing Theme of Beowulf. ” Beowulf: The Donaldson Translation Backgrounds and Sources Criticism. Ed. Joseph F. Tuso. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, INC, 1975. 118-131. Layerle, John. “The Conflicting Demands of Heroic Strength and Kingly Wisdom. ” Readings on Beowulf. Ed. Bruno Leone, Brenda Stalcup, and Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998. 6-62. Magennis, Hugh. “Treachery and Betrayal in Beowulf. ” Readings on Beowulf. Ed. Bruno Leone, Brenda Stalcup, and Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998. 120-124. Niles, John D. “The Fata Contradiction in Beowulf. ” Readings on Beowulf. Ed. Bruno Leone, Brenda Stalcup, and Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998. 89-97. Nitzsche, Jane C. “The Structural Unity of Beowulf. ” The Problem of Grendel’s Mother Fall, 1980: 22. : 287-303. Online Edition. Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center. Thomson Gale. 11 Apr 2005 .

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Swanton, Michael. “The Heroic Standards of Beowulf’s World. ” Readings on Beowulf. Ed. Bruno Leone, Brenda Stalcup, and Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998. 74-81. Tolkien, J. R. R. “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics. ” Beowulf: The Donaldson Translation Backgrounds and Sources Criticism. Ed. Joseph F. Tuso. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, INC, 1975. 105-113. Tolkien, J. R. R. “Beowulf as a Heroic-Elegiac Poem. ” Readings on Beowulf. Ed. Bruno Leone, Brenda Stalcup, and Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998. 24-30.

Author: Allan Leider

in Beowulf

“Good vs. Evil” in Beowulf

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