Beowulf Essay Topics Choose one of the following topics to write a two-page double-spaced essay documenting your opinions with evidence from the poem. The essays will be scored based on the attached rubric



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Beowulf Essay Topics

Choose one of the following topics to write a two-page double-spaced essay documenting your opinions with evidence from the poem. The essays will be scored based on the attached rubric.
1. The hero of an epic poem normally embodies the ideals of conduct that are most valued by the culture in which the epic was composed.How does Beowulf fit the definition of an epic? Be sure to define an epic, and mention Beowulf’s context in Anglo-Saxon society, the Anglo-Saxon earthly virtues and the characteristics of an epic hero.
2. Describe the influence of outside forces on this poem. Be sure to include Christians, Pagans, Monks and any other influences you’ve researched. Be sure to point out any contradictions that you see within the poem.
3. Choose a dichotomy that is present throughout the poem and explain its significance to each of the three battles. An example is good/evil – clearly, Beowulf fights for good and Grendel, his mother and the dragon for evil. Are you sure that the dragon really fights for evil? What symbols, allusions, and images connect Beowulf with good and his opponents with evil?
4. Many critics and teachers believe that Beowulf contains themes that are relevant to modern life. Do you agree or disagree. Explain your answer.
5.The pagans, Germans, Greeks, and other ancient peoples believed that fame and glory were only things that would survive a human being’s death. What evidence do you find in the poem of the importance placed on a person’s public reputation. Write an essay in which you use examples for the poem to support your answer.
TIPS

Leave blank lines after your topic sentences and after each paragraph so that you can go back and add information where it fits best.

Be sure to support everything you say with evidence from the text. You don’t have to memorize quotations, but be prepared with plenty of details.

Organize your ideas into a few body paragraphs, and reflect that in your introduction. Go back and add to your intro. if necessary as you write.

Proofread! Grammar counts!

Flip back through the poem/your notes. Get all of the references you can. Try to cover most or all of the poem – don’t just use examples from one section!


Sample Beowulf Essay: Topic 3

Dichotomy: Heaven/Hell
The dichotomy of Heaven and Hell is found throughout the poem Beowulf. It reflects the blending of cultures faced by the Anglo-Saxons as well as the influence of Christian monks on an essentially Pagan poem. It further serves to characterize Grendel, Beowulf, the Geats and the Danes.

In “The Wrath of Grendel”, the monster is described as living in “darkness”, often a metaphor for Hell. He is also separated from the society of warriors at Herot. This is significant for two reasons. First, it allies him with the Biblical character of Cain, who was exiled as a murderer and apparently marked by God physically. Grendel, too, is physically different from the Danes, and it is because of his crimes that he cannot be part of their community. This suggests that Grendel is exiled from Heaven as Cain was exiled from Eden, or the presence of God and man.

The second way in which Grendel’s aloneness is significant is that the Hebrew version of Hell, Sheol, is really defined as a cold, dark place where the dead are separated from God and from the living. This relates directly to Grendel’s marsh area, which is described as “a hell, not Hell but Earth”. His lair is described in “The Monster’s Lair” as deep down, dark and having a hellish light around it. It is said to be so evil that it makes Heaven weep. Clearly, the poem establishes that Grendel is not going to enter Heaven. He is associated with “demons” and “fiends”, all Hellish creatures that are in eternal opposition to God and therefore excluded from Heaven. A kenning used to describe Grendel later in this part is “hell-forged hands”, suggesting that he was created in Hell. Grendel is said never to touch Hrothgar’s throne because it is protected by God. Grendel cannot know God’s love, so he is permanently exiled from Christian society according to the poem.

It is not just Grendel who is characterized through the dichotomy of Heaven and Hell. When Grendel attacks the Danes, they turn to God for help. When the attacks continue, they turnto the old stone gods, “hoping for Hell’s support”. This was probably added by the Christian monks to demonstrate the link between Paganism and Hell; their additions to Beowulf often emphasize the superiority of Christianity as they saw it. The poem then gives a stern warning to those who do not trust God when trouble strikes, indicating that they will remain separated from God and spend the afterlife in Hell. The Geats are also shown focusing on Heaven after Beowulf’s death as they glorify him, using words like “praise” and “glory”. They seem to believe that he is in Heaven, whereas he most likely would not really have been Christian.

Beowulf, too, is characterized in terms of Heaven and Hell. When he kills Grendel’s mother, a light, as bright as “Heaven’s own candle” (the sun), shines on him from no apparent source. This suggests that God blesses his destruction of the monster. This also happens after he and Wiglaf have won the treasure from the Dragon. The battle with the dragon consists of Beowulf coming through fire and flames that burn him, much like the common Christian concept of Hell. Later, as he is dying after the battle with the Dragon, he thanks God for the treasure, calling him the “Father in Heaven”, reminding readers that Beowulf will soon die and enter Heaven. As Beowulf is dying, Wiglaf sprinkles him with water, perhaps signifying baptism.

When Beowulf dies, the poem says that his soul went to “glory” and was “on high”, both metaphors for Heaven. By sending Beowulf to Heaven when he dies, the monks who transcribed the poem are sending a message to their audience that Heaven awaits those who believe and live accordingly.









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