What are some of the themes of the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf?

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mrsk72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Anglo-Saxon poetry generally explores the exploits of an epic hero in battle - often ending the a lament for the hero's death. The battle may be based on historical events, e.g. 'The Battle of Maldon', or those of a more mythological nature, e.g. 'Beowulf'.

The themes in these poems are bravery, honour and duty, although later poetry may also have Christian themes as well.

'Beowulf' is probably the best known Anglo-Saxon epic poem - surviving in a manuscript which is kept in the British Library. The poem traces Beowulf's heroic life - epitomising the typical traits of the epic hero: bravery, greater prowess in battle than other men and a sense of duty to the people he protects.

One of the key themes in the poem, aside from bravery and leadership, is revenge:

"It seems better that each man avenge his friends than to mourn them to no end."