epic poem


Beowulf was perhaps composed during the 9th century A. D. by someone whose name is not known. It is the earliest and the greatest epic or heroic poem.

Short Summary of Beowulf:

This epic poem describes the hero Beowulf marching with his fourteen warriors and arrive at the place of Heorot where he finds that he king of Heorot Hrothgar terrified by a monster called Grendel. Beowulf manages to kill Grendel and his monster-mother at his abode beneath a lake. After that he returns to his country and becomes the king there and rules his kingdom for fifty years. He dies of the wounds he got once during the combat fought with a dragon.

The Specialty of the Poem:

This epic poem has the magnificent ending. It describes the selfless heroism of Beowulf, anguish of his people, the memorial knoll on the low cliff, which would route every returning mariner to guide a straight course to harbor in the memory of his dead hero.

Myth and Meaning of the Poem:

The time when this poem Beowulf composed, there existed several northern legends of Beowa, a half-divine hero, and the monster called Grendel. Some consider the later as a bear and some interpret it as the malaria of the marsh lands.

Symbolic Interpretation:

As for the symbolic interpretation, some consider these myths as Beowulf’s successive fights with the three dragons as: 1. the overcoming of the threat of the sea, which was trodden by the dykes, 2. the conquering of the sea by sailing upon it, 3. the conflict with the hostile forces of nature defeated by man’s will and perseverance.

Really speaking, Beowulf is the epic portraying the picture of a brave man’s death.

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It is undoubtedly a matter of discussion whether Satan is really the hero of the epic or not. Satan is at the centre of Milton’s Paradise Lost who dominates especially in Book I and II and in IV. He is the heroic figure in the first two books. He is still an Archangel though he is rotting in the hell. His character, his power his evil capacity must be exalted to show the epic greatness of the coming conflict, in order to rouse the sympathy in the reader and for redemption.

There comes a time in the life and character of Satan getting distorted. There is an instance where little of heroism remains in him when he takes the shape of toad to whisper in Eve’s ear, he was stirred up by the Spear of Ithuriel. At the close of the poem, Satan’s degradation is complete.

Truly speaking, man is really the heroic figure of the poem. It is all the truth if we consider together Paradise Lost where Man, though conquered, wins the readers’ sympathies and the coming of the Greater Man is foretold. Paradise Regained where the Divine Man triumphs. In the later part of the poem, Satan is not only vanquished ignominiously, but also appear before the reader a mean, shifty, paltry creature as contrasted with the haughty, desperate impersonation of evil of the earlier work.

The Puritans were God-fearing. It was a protest and reaction against the decadent Spirit of the Renaissance. Puritanism is the potent force in Milton’s work. The makes use of the controversial topics such as the universality of Divine Providence, the reality of evil, the hope of redemption from evil, and the unity of human race.

Because of the influence of Renaissance, the character of Satan-like Faustus-was glorified by Milton which was done at the cost of God, the other character in the epic. Satan is the product of Milton’s love of enterprise and adventure. Whereas, Spenser’s Faerie Queene has Knight of the Red Cross, Satan is a Knight of Staygian Darkness who has all attributes of knightliness which gleamed in the romances and the epics of the Renaissance.