I am doing a Literature and History project. I need help on how Beowulf reflects the historal setting in which it was developed?What was learned from the era of the characters in the story of Beowulf?
One of the most inteesting historical era elements of Beowulf is that that it was written at an exciting time, spiritually, for many cultures. Although Christianity was getting a firm hold by the time of the Middle Ages in many countries, the vast majority of the poulation in countries such as Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Ireland and even England could still not read or write. For entertainment many still relied upon gathering round the open fire in a great hall or humble cot to hear the news from travellers, pedlars or minstrels. Some of these still would have been long war ballads or sagas like Beowulf and though some had been Christianised, many retained strongly pagan images and adventures as relics from stories. One of the most interesting things to pick out therefore is the elements or christian or pagan threads in the tale. One of the most illuminating texts on this subject (which you may find helpful) is in the introduction to Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf.
Beowulf was written in the early middle ages. It was a culture that had several influences from: the Roman Empire, Christianity and Germanic tribes. Hence, there will be element of each. The most interesting points are when there are weird combinations, such as when Grendel is a said to be of the line of Cain from the book of Genesis.
If you are looking for historical details, then the best way to approach a text is to read the work and look for incidental points of detail, things that they author did not intend to yield information. If you do this, then you will get behind the biases of the author.
If you are looking for general historical context, read a book on the early middle ages.