The Portrayal of the Anglo-Saxon Cultural Practices As Illustrated In the Verse Composition Known as Beowulf
Chicago’s renowned John Hancock center, the local Eisenhower Jr. High, and the Daley center are all buildings named after individuals who were valued and looked upon with respect. Today, people value education, talent, and leadership enough to name buildings after individuals who portray these traits. Since the Anglo-Saxon time period, things have been altered. Anglo-Saxons valued aspects such as strength, power, and a hero status. Looking back in history, there are several artifacts of Anglo-Saxon culture, like their poems and their art, that display the importance of such values. The epic poem, Beowulf, is one artifact that demonstrates the values of Anglo-Saxon culture.
In the epic poem, the main character, Beowulf is the embodiment of all that is good from the Anglo-Saxons point of view. Beowulf is their hero: strong, courageous, and bold. To the Anglo-Saxons, these qualities were necessary for them to be successful. Before Beowulf goes to fight the evil monster, Grendel, he brags to his people saying “And I shall fulfill that purpose, / prove myself with a proud deed/ or meet my death here in the mead-hall.” (Beowulf 636-638). Beowulf is telling the citizens that he is going to prove his strength, as well as his greatness as a warrior, by defeating Grendel. Then again, he also recognizes that if he truly isn’t as good as he believed himself to be, he would met death. Being the hero that everyone valued and respected, Beowulf represents the strength and courage that was prized by the Anglo-Saxons.
The citizens of this epic poem not only look up to their heroes, but they also aspire to be strong and noble warriors themselves. During the Anglo-Saxon time period, it was important for the men to be tough and vicious. After defeating Grendel, the citizens recognized Beowulf’s greatness “Beowulf’s doings/ were praised over and over again. /… on the broad earth, was there anyone better.” (855-856, 859). Because the defeat of Grendel was essential for the Danes to return back to their normal, everyday life, Beowulf was rewarded with a feast and many gifts from the king, and everyone in town gathered in the mead-hall to celebrate Beowulf’s courageous achievement. The people of this epic poem resemble the people of the Anglo-Saxon time because they highly value and aspire to be prestigious warriors.
During the Anglo-Saxon time period, courage and strength weren’t the only things that were valued; enjoying themselves in the mead hall was also important to them. In Beowulf, the powerful king of Danes, Hrothgar, created his own mead-hall called Heorot. Heorot was a place for his people to drink mead and enjoy themselves. Mead-halls were significant to the Anglo-Saxon time period because it was a place where they could solely have a good time and for forget about fighting for the moment. The mead-hall was also a place for celebration. In Beowulf, the Danes all gathered in Heorot to celebrate Beowulf’s successes.
The men in the hall, then handed the cup
First to Hrothgar, their homeland’s guardian,
Urging him to drink deep and enjoy it
Because he was dear to them. And he drank it down
Like the warlord he was, with a festive cheer (615-619).
The men in the mead-hall honor their beloved king, for they have all gathered in the mead hall to give thanks to their heroic, powerful leaders. During the Anglo-Saxon time period, the people gave importance and pride to the mead-hall and they saw it as a place of comfort, celebration, and relaxation.
The epic poem, Beowulf, is a reference that today’s historians can use to learn about Anglo-Saxon culture because Beowulf portrays the Anglo-Saxon values and culture well. Beowulf exemplifies strength and courage that people of the Anglo-Saxon period admired so much. The citizens of the epic poem resemble the citizens of the Anglo-Saxon period because they showed their admiration for great warriors like Beowulf and they desired to be tough like him. Important things, like the mead hall were a part of an Anglo-Saxon tradition, and it had an important meaning to them. Throughout the Anglo-Saxon period, they built buildings for mead drinking, and that was an essential part of their culture. Today, however, we build high schools dedicated to education, which we value tremendously. Compared to Anglo-Saxon culture, the values of today vastly differ.
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