Complex and Contradictory Themes of Violence in Beowulf

"So that troubled time continued, woe that never stopped..." (Beowulf 38)

In the epic poem Beowulf, the relation of aggression and heroism is complicated and challenging, especially when a contemporary reader is introduced to views expressed from the perspective of the Anglo-Saxon culture base. The challenge, therefore, is to interpret and understand the complex view of violence that the anonymous Anglo-Saxon narrator presents. The narrator paints a contrasting picture of glorious violence, which brings honor to a warrior, and tragic violence, which permeates the relationships between the Anglo-Saxon tribes.

The most noticeable examples of violence in the Beowulf epic are the descriptions of Beowulf's battles. These descriptions are lengthy, detailed, and typically filled with gore. While this may be shocking for a modern audience, the framing of these violent descriptions make it clear that these events are something to praise and admire. When Beowulf first boasts to Hrothgar of his honor, he stresses that, "all knew of my awesome strength. They have seen me boltered in the blood of enemies" (Beowulf 418). The text clearly implies that Beowulf's forceful "avenge[ing of] the Geats" is...

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