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Beowulf and The Iliad - Fate and Religion in Ancient Text

Uploaded by Alterac on Dec 02, 2002

The inclusion of fate and what happens to the soul when you die is quite common in ancient literature. The Greek epic The Iliad and the essential work of Old English, Beowulf, are two very fine examples of this theme. Fate, how it is, or how it will play out, is recognized in both epics as something all must eventually deal with. What is implied is that the true fate of a warrior, no matter how great, is death. A man’s death can either include honor, or shame, it is the goal of both Achilles of The Iliad, and Beowulf to die honorably. Another interesting aspect of fate and death is the inclusion of an afterlife, and what that might be. In Beowulf, it is deducted that there is early Christianity that has to do with the belief in the heaven. On the contrary, the belief in life post mortem in The Iliad has much more to do with the ancient Greek Gods. The purpose of this essay is to establish a comparison of the power of fate, and the control it has mentally over both the protagonists. Also, it will contrast the early Christianity of Beowulf, to the polytheism of ancient Greece and each of their effects respectively to both characters.

From the beginning of the epic, Beowulf regards his fate as one of a great warrior. This fate is to do as much honor to his name as he can, but all the while, be prepared for death, as Beowulf is. This fate, as shown in Beowulf is that of a great Warrior and ruler. Beowulf, called on by the agony of the Danish, comes to rid them of the beast Grendal.

“Beowulf got ready,
donned his war-gear, indifferent to death;
his mighty, hand forged, fine webbed mail would soon meet with the menace underwater. It would keep the bone cage of his body safe”
(Heaney 1442-1446)

The quest for honor before death is perhaps the central goal for all true warriors. Beowulf quests for this honor before death over all else that is gifted to him such as power, money, and longevity. Beowulf’s glory before death is shown in his actions such as destroying Grendal, hunting Grendal’s mother, and in eliminating the great Dragon after being abandoned by his own men. Although he realizes that he is a great warrior, Beowulf is also very aware of his own mortality, and knows that...

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Uploaded by:   Alterac

Date:   12/02/2002

Category:   Beowulf

Length:   10 pages (2,240 words)

Views:   4492

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