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tenth century Christian Elements In Beowulf

Christian Elements in Beowulf
The praised epic poem, Beowulf, is the first great heroic poem in English
literature. The epic follows a courageous warrior named Beowulf throughout his young,
adult life and into his old age. As a young man, Beowulf becomes a legendary hero when
he saves the land of the Danes from the hellish creatures, Grendel and his mother. Later,
after fifty years pass, Beowulf is an old man and a great king of the Geats. A monstrous
dragon soon invades his peaceful kingdom and he defends his people courageously, dying
in the process. His body is burned and his ashes are placed in a cave by the sea. By
placing his ashes in the seaside cave, people passing by will always remember the
legendary hero and king, Beowulf. In this recognized epic, Beowulf, is abound in
supernatural elements of pagan associations; however, the poem is the opposite of pagan
barbarism. The presentation of the story telling moves fluidly within Christian
surroundings as well as pagan ideals.
Beowulf was a recited pagan folklore where the people of that time period
believed in gods, goddesses, and monsters. Its significance lies in an oral history where
people memorized long, dense lines of tedious verse. Later, when a written tradition was
introduced they began to write the story down on tablets.
The old tale was not first told or invented by the commonly known, Beowulf poet.
This is clear from investigations of the folk lore analogues. The manuscript was written
by two scribes around AD 1000 in late West Saxon, the literary dialect of that period. It
is believed that the scribes who put the old materials together into their present form
were Christians and that his poem reflects a Christian tradition. The first scribe copied
three prose pieces and the first 1,939 lines of Beowulf while the second scribe copied the
rest of Beowulf and Judith. In 1731, a fire swept through the Cottonian Library,
damaging many books and scorching the Beowulf codex. In 1786-87, after the
manuscript had been deposited in the British Museum the Icelander, Grinur Jonsson
Thorkelin, made two transcriptions of the poem for what was to be the first edition, in
1815 (Clark, 112-15).
Beowulf is a mixture of pagan and Christian attitudes. Heathen practices are
mentioned in several places, such as vowing of sacrifices at idol fanes, the observing of
omens, the burning of the dead, which was frowned upon by the church. The frequent
allusions to the power of fate, the motive of blood revenge, and the praise of worldly
glory bear testimony to the ancient background of pagan conceptions and ideals.
However, the general tone of the epic and its ethical viewpoint are predominantly
Christian . There is no longer a genuine pagan atmosphere. The sentiment has been
softened and purified. The virtues of moderation, unselfishness, consideration for others
are practiced and appreciated. Beowulf is a Christian reworking of a pagan poem with a
string of pagan lays edited by monks; it is the work of a learned but inaccurate Christian
antiquarian (Clark, 112).
The author has fairly exhaulted the fights with Grendel, his mother, and the
dragon into a conflict between powers of good and evil. The figure of Grendel, while
originally an ordinary Scandinavian troll is conceived as an impersonation of evil and
darkness, even an incarnation of the Christian devil. Grendel is a member of the race of
Cain, from whom all misshapen and unnatural things were spawned (Kermode, 42)
such as ogres and elves. He is a creature dwelling in the outer darkness, a giant and
cannibal. When he crawls off to die, he is said to join the route of devils in hell. The
story of a race of demonic monsters and giants descended from Cain. It came form a
tradition established by the apocryphal Book of Enoch and early Jewish and Christian
interpretations of Genesis 6:4, There were giants in the earth in those days, and also
afterward, when the sons of God had relations with the daughters of men, who bore
children to them (Holland Crossley, 15).
Many of Grendels appellations are unquestionable epithets of Satan such as
enemy of mankind, Gods adversary, the devil in hell, and the hell slave. His
actions are represented in a manner suggesting the conduct of the evil one, and he dwells
with his mother in a mere which conjures visions of hell.
The depiction of the mere is the most remarkable because it is a conceptual
landscape made fearsomely realistic ... more

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Gay=s Use of Music for Satire in The Beggar=s Opera
John Gay=s The Beggar=s Opera is a rather complex work, despite its apparent simplicity.  Critics have interpreted it variously as political satire, moral satire, even (at a stretch) Christian satire.  Common to many interpretations is the assertion that the Opera is a satire directed at both the politics and the art of its day.  A fairly conventional interpretation of the play and its composition shows that it is, and was intended by its author to be, specifically a satire of Italian opera and of the aristocrats that patronized that form.  While that interpretation is not in doubt, because critics almost universally agree about it in the literature, most interpretations overlook a certain aspect of the satire and comedy.  Specifically, the nature of the music and the manner in which Gay uses that music in the play produces a certain brusque effect, one which can serve to heighten the comedy and deepen the satire of Opera.  This caustic use of music extends to the content of the songs themselves, the technical features of the music, and the manner of their insertion into the play itself.  Several examples of the songs, as well as the text surrounding them, evidence this acerbic use of the music within the play to satirize opera.
That Gay means to satirize opera categorically is fairly obvious within the text, even without outside knowledge of the operas of the day.  Gay first indicates his satiric intent in the Beggar=s opening speech when the Beggar says:
I hope I may be forgiven, that I have not made my opera throughout unnatural, like those in vogue. (Nettleton 530)  
Further, the Beggar represents opera composers to some extent, which is an unflattering representation in itself.  That the Beggar speaks like a literary hack furthers the insult delivered to those composers through this character:
I have introduced the similes that are in all your celebrated operas: the swallow, the moth, the bee, the ship, the flower &c.  
At the end of the play, the Beggar and Player return to further insult opera.  The Player says AAn opera must end happily@ (III.xvi), to which the Beggar replies by indicating that he can create a happy ending, because A*tis no matter how absurdly things are brought about@ in opera.  additionally, the composer and performer do these things Ato satisfy the taste of the town,@ thus assigning blame for the banality of opera to its audiences.
Gay was motivated to satirize opera because of its immense popularity, as William Schultz says:
In 1728 (the year of the Opera=s premiere) Italian opera was firmly settled as a popular fashion.  People of all ranks...flocked to hear the foreign compositions, as well as English pieces in a similar style. (136)
Italian opera was so very popular that it eroded native English music and musical styles.  Musical productions of anything besides opera were poorly funded by patrons, if funded at all, and often failed.  The sixty-nine ballads of Gay=s Opera are native English tunes for which Gay wrote new lyrics.  And the work was a very successful strike against the foreign art form, as well as a revitalization of the somewhat sagging English musical tradition (for a fuller discussion of the historical circumstances, see Schultz ).  At the very least, a certain sort of artistic patriotism motivated Gay in composition.  
The most immediate aspect of Gay=s satire is in the content of the opera and some of its ballads.  While there are notable exceptions, the opera as a form is one generally reserved for the most Aworthy@ material.  This is more the case before the time of the Opera than after, but still largely true even after the Eighteenth century.  Wagner=s Parsifal is about a quest for the Holy Grail, and the Niebelung is about the struggles of the Norse gods.  Berlioz=s Les Troyens is about the Trojan War.  Bizet=s Carmen is a tragic love story, and Handel=s Rinaldo is about a knight in the First Crusade.   Handel was a contemporary of Gay and one of the major operatic composer of his day, thus his work rather exemplary of the operas of the period.  Purcell=s King Arthur is a Asemi-opera@ about the mythic ... more

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