The Use of Allusion (to the Bible and Other Works) in Illuminating the

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TheUse of Allusion (to the Bible and Other Works) in Illuminating theTheme of Beowulf

Beowulfis an epic poem that contains the elements of both Christianity andPaganism. The two religions are reflected through the acts of thecharacters. For instance, Paganism is suggestion through therecognition of warfare while the Christian traditions desist from it(Hill 12). Beowulf is a heroic worrier and is the main protagonist ofthe poem, and everything revolves around him. Although Beowulf seemsto have a Christian spirit to assisting people, he is also filledwith the egocentric prize of Paganism. He endeavors to obtain respectwhile at the same time, thrives for the fulfillment of fighting (Hill32). He is considered as a hero and in this regard, he depends on hisstrength to trounce Grendel. The fact that Beowulf derides weaponry,drinks, and had a tendency of killing creatures symbolized Paganism.By reading the poem it is clear that the writer portrays Beowulf as acharacter full of Christian customs and traditions (Puchner et al.42). He is also ready to die while defending the universe againstwickedness with God’s help (Hill 25).

Throughoutthe poem, the author has employed different components of Christianvalues. For instance, it is stated that man lives through God’sprotection. Besides, God is the provider of all material gifts andrequires man to be generous and humble. Nevertheless, there is strongevidence to show that Beowulf is filled with heroic pride, and thisis in disagreement with Christian beliefs (Puchner et al. 64). Theelements of humility vs. pride and selfishness vs. sacrifices areillustrated. According to the Greek tragedians as put forth byHrothgar, pride leads to tragic fall while material wealth acquiredthrough God’s grace should be shared unselfishly.

Beowulf’sfaith and courage is evident in the whole poem. This is illustratedwhere the writer demonstrates the perceptions of other charactersregarding Beowulf. To quote “None of the wise ones regretting hisgoing, much As he was loved by the Geats: the omens were good, Andthey urged the adventure on” (Hall 114-119). Beowulf bears aresemblance to Samson and David in the Bible. It is demonstrated bythe reason that just as the two personalities, the characterprevailed over numerous problems, which could be deemed difficult bymany people. For instance, he risked his life in assisting Hrothgartogether with other warriors. Beowulf’s courage is also portrayedwhen he battled Grendel as well as his mother (Hill 48). WhileBeowulf was relating his fight with Grendel’s mother, heacknowledged God’s protection. He put forth “The fight would haveended straightaway if God had not guarded me&quot (Hall 1.4). God’srecognition is also demonstrated when he states that &quotmost oftenHe has guided the man without friends&quot (Hall 1.5). Certainly,there is a strong sense of supernatural protection filtering throughall actions of Beowulf. Nevertheless, it is also clear that thewarrior had to earn God’s protection by being honest, humble,courageous, and free of pride.

Thetheme of success in the poem is also illuminated using allusion fromthe Bible. This is evident when Hrothgar was telling Beowulfregarding material success provide by God. He stated that earthlysuccess provided by God should be treated with humility and be sharedfailure to which the king would bring forth disaster. While Hrothgarwas talking about the selfish king, he quotes that “What he haslong held seems to him too little, angry-hearted he covets” (Hall5.13). The expression “he covets” is symbolic of the TenCommandments in the Bible. It means that having material desireresults in yearning for more to the extent that nothing issufficient. Therefore, an excellent king shares his materialbelongings with others. He frantically offers expensive gifts withoutfearfully guarding them. The author illustrates that human beings are“loaned” and that life is a gift extended by God.

Anothertheme illuminated in the poem is that of murder. Part three talksabout Grendel as the murderer. The poem refers to Grendel as anoffspring of Cain. This is evidenced in the line which states that&quotthe hostile-hearted creature, Gods enemy, guilty of murder&quot(Hall 2.4), referring to Grendel. His deeds are evidenced after heattacked the sleeping heroes, dragging and devouring thirty of them.God hears the cry of suffering of the people and he is againstGrendel. This is a biblical allusion when God turned against Cainafter he killed his brother Abel. Furthermore, an allusion of theflood which occurred during the time of Noah in the book of Genesisis also exemplified. When the giants’ race was slew by rushingwater of the flood, they were considered to suffer awfully. Byillustrating this, the author suggested that the creators of thesword were offspring of those who made God punish his people throughflood, and possibly, they were offspring of Cain. In a nutshell, theauthor has clearly illuminated the themes in Beowulf using adequatebiblical allusions. This helps the readers understand the poem in amore clear way.


Hall,Lesslie. Beowulf:An Anglo-Saxon Epic Poem.New York, NY: D.C. Heath &amp Co., Publishers, 2005. Available at

Hill,John M. (Eds). Onthe Aesthetics of Beowulf and Other Old English Poems.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010. Print.

Puchner,Martin Akbari, Suzanne Conklin Denecke, Wiebke Fuchs, Barbara &ampLevine, Caroline (Eds). TheNorton Anthology of Western Literature, Volume 2(9 th ed.). W W Norton &amp Company Incorporated, 2014. Print.