What is a summary of the theme of "Beowulf"?


Quick Answer

Themes that are present in "Beowulf" include loyalty, reputation, generosity, hospitality, envy, revenge, the search for identity, the difference between good warriors and good kings, fame, pride, Christianity and Paganism. Beowulf personifies loyalty throughout the story, while the characters of King Hrothgar and Queen Wealhtheow exemplify generosity and hospitality.

Continue Reading

Full Answer

Additional examples of loyalty in "Beowulf" include Beowulf's devotion to King Hrothgar because of the debt that Beowulf owes him and Beowulf risking his life for his king and uncle, Hygelac. Beowulf's service to the young King Heardred and Beowulf's eventual demise when he and Wiglaf fight the dragon are also exemplary of loyalty.

Themes of reputation, establishing an identity, fame and pride, can all be found throughout the story as Beowulf is partially driven to perform heroic deed after heroic deed in order to build up his own stature and legend. Envy and revenge appear in the form of the monster Grendel and its mother, while also being present in the politics and relations between the differing Germanic tribes found throughout the story. The evolution of Beowulf as a young warrior into Beowulf the old king highlights those qualities that the Germanic heroic code of the time period valued. The relationship between Christianity and Paganism is expressed by the narrator who identifies as a Christian and who struggles to retell the story of Beowulf without any religious bias.

Learn more about Classics

Related Questions