"The Dream of the Rood" Themes

Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

The poem as a whole functions as a meditation on the redemptive power of Christ’s crucifixion. The dreamer as well as the audience is confronted with a retelling of the Crucifixion from the perspective of one who was not only a witness to but also a participant in the Lord’s suffering. The cross, the dreamer, and the audience experience a transformation from confusion to comprehension as anticipated in a medieval dream vision. As a work of affective devotion, the poem also causes movement from uncertainty to faith through the emotional description of Christ’s willing suffering and the assurance of salvation through veneration of the cross.

“The Dream of the Rood” belongs to the strong Old English tradition of Christian literature intended to guide the faithful through their lives. Saint Augustine brought Roman Christianity to the Anglo-Saxons in 597, and by the end of the seventh century, monastic life was well established in Britain. The poem exemplifies the fusion of Germanic and Christian-Mediterranean cultures found in Old English literature.

This poem takes up the cult of the cross theme popular in Christianity since the fourth century recovery of the True Cross by Saint Helena. The image of the cross provided a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for the salvation of humankind. The dreamer’s experience leads him to a stronger devotion to the cross, and he accepts the command to embark on a mission of evangelization, revealing...

(The entire section is 539 words.)