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FreshmanEnglish 205, Writers of the British Isle
First Essay Topic:
discuss teh treatments of war in Beowulf and Morte Darthur, paying close
attention to the literal or figurative treatment of fratricide- the “sin
of Cain”- as it appears in the works. In both works, the interwined
destinies of family and civil society mean that family and extended
kinship ties will be broken in time of war. compare and contrast how
these issues are presented in teh two works.
Ready to submit
How to find and correct micro-sentence-level errors
I’m discussing the topic of fratricide in the two works
In Beowulf, the symboilic allusions to fratrcide sketch out a “good vs.
evil” theme, where as in Morte Darthur, the focus on fratrcide is indirect
and the theme is repentenace.
I’m not sure if the way my citations are correctly formatted there was no
Lynn, Newton, “A Symbolic Reference to Genesis”
Writers of the British Isles
Prof. Hunter, A Symbolic Reference to Genesisî
*** The influence of Christianity on Middle English literature can be seen
in a variety of period texts. More specifically, biblical references to
fratricide can be found in the epic tale of Beowulf as a representation of
Christian thought, good vs. evil. In Sir Thomas Malloryís Morte Darthur,
allusions to the sin of Cain are weaved into the stories themed around
Christian beliefs of redemption.
*** The tale of Beowulf unfolds in a Mid-evil society blitzed with war.
The author makes many allusions to Christianity in his poetry, even though
this particular story is was written adaptation of a pagan oral poem.
*** The religious influence during the time Beowulf was written seems to
help the author convey his understanding of war, the human condition and
the role that sin plays by our separation from God.
*** The author alludes to books of the Old Testament which are intertwined
with the dark and often bloody lyrics of this poem. We know that Beowulfí
s persona is essentially good, because he has won favor in the eyes of
God. After Beowulf defeats Grendel he speaks of Godís will saying, ìThe
Lord allowed it.î
*** Through Beowulf the author describes the evil nature of Grendel, ìLike
a man outlawed for wickedness, he must await the mighty judgment of God in
majesty.î Based on the premise that anything not of God is evil, Grendel
would represent evil. Grendel, separated from God by sin, is also a
direct descendent of the Biblical Cain.
*** Beowulf is a heroic warrior who bravely battles and defeats the
Grendel, Grendelís mother and the dragon, all decedents of Cain. We know
that Beowulf believes in God and therefore symbolizes that he of Gods
divine will by conquering the evil monsters.
*** Metaphorically, the poem is written in a way so that all that is
deemed ìgoodî in the world, even war and death is of Godís divine will.
Separation, or evil, occurs in this case for those who have sinned against
God and have not repented.
*** A major explanation of separation can be found in the biblical
references pertaining to the sin of Cain. Allusions to this important
Christian tale can be evaluated further by reading Genesis 4.
***In short, the text describes the first recorded act of fratricide in
the Bible when Cain kills Able. Two brothers were in the field one day;
Cain rose against his brother and killed him. The following verses
describe how the tribes of Adam and Eve (mother and father of Cain and
Able) were separated.
*** God told Cain, ìSo now you are cursed from the earth, which has
opened its mouth to receive your brotherís blood from your hand. When you
till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive
and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.î (1)
*** In Beowulf we know that Grendel and his mother live under the ground.
We also know that Grendel is ìfrom the seed of Cainî. This is a symbolic
figure of evil, since Christian belief dictates that sin is what separates
us from God.
*** Because Cain sinned, he would endure an eternal separation from God.
Biblically, fratricide is an unpardonable sin. Cain did not repent, and
therefore God put a mark on him, banishing him from his homeland.
*** God did not avenge Cain with death; rather, Cain was separated from
the tribe of Adam and became a wanderer with no place in society. An
allusion to the split tribe of Adam can be found in Beowulfís lines
1725-1728: ìit is a great wonder how Almighty God in His magnificence
favors our race with rank and scope ad the gift of wisdom.î Since Grendel
is from the seed of Cain, it is assumed that Beowulfís race can only be
from the Tribe of Adam, and therefore, is favorable in the eyes of the
*** This allusion to race and banishment of Cainís tribe is also
suggested in lines 2291-2292 of Beowulf, ìSo many a man not marked by fate
easily escape exile and woe by the grace of God.î
*** Recall that God had told Cain, ìyou are cursedî because he committed
sin and did not repent. The separation from God would cause Cain to be ìA
fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.î
*** We know that in lines 2354-2355 Beowulf defeats evil when fighting
Grendel. ìHe out grappled the monster and his evil kin.î Thus the
classic battle of good vs. evil is apparent in the poem. Grendel and his
mother represent the spawn of Cain
The dragon is pure evil. They all live under ground, where Abelís blood
spilt into the earth. Since Cain was marked and exiled, so too are his
offspring. Like the prince that died in Beowulfís story, there is no
vengeance for killing a brother.
*** The sin of fratricide is an especially important symbolism in
Beowulf. Lines 2435-2440 of Beowulf speak of King Hrethelís sons. ìFor
the eldest, Herebeald, an unexpected deathbed was laid out, through a
brotherís doing /when Haethcyn bent his horn-tipped bow/and loosed the
arrow that destroyed his life. /He shot wide and buried a shaft/in the
flesh and blood of his own brother.î
*** The descriptive poetry describes the mortal sin of fratricide with
dark lyrics, portraying that this appalling act of killing is indeed a
grave social injustice. It is also described in Beowulf that there is
nothing anyone could do to avenge the princesí death. As in those days,
the killing of one from outside the family was an act of vengeance.
*** However, vengeance for fratricide, the killing within ones own
family, could not occur in their society. In Genesis, God put strife upon
Cainís life and banished him. Similarly, when dealing with the death of
Herebeald, the lord of the Geats said he ìcould not punish the killer in
accordance with the law of the blood-feud, although he felt no love for
*** The dragon is symbolic of satin in that he too lives beneath the
earth. Beowulf attacks the dragon: (Lines 2514-2515): ìIf the evil one
will only abandon his earth-fort and face me in the open.î
*** Beowulf, who is the divine hero of the poem claims of his comrades
that, ìSent my whole brave highborn clan/to their final doom. Now I must
follow them.î This is an excellent illustration of how Beowulf feels on
topics concerning the kinship and loyalty in war.
*** Additionally the social perception of loyalty and kinship during war
can be examined in lines 2600-2602: ìin a man of worth the claims of
kinship cannot be denied.î The heroic warriors in Beowulf are portrayed
as noble, and, therefore, of goodness and not the spawn of evil. Perhaps
the outstanding social acceptance of the warriors is and authors attempt
to build religious theme into the pagan poem.
*** Other particulars are sprinkled through out the poem, showing just
how elevated the author has portrayed Beowulf, even making him seem
Christ-like. Lines 2843-2834 state, ìThe treasure had been won, bought
and paid for by Beowulfís death.î In Christian theory, Jesus Christ paid
for the sins of all people with his death on the cross. The treasure won
by Beowulf would be elvated to the ìtreasureî of live eternally in
paradise through Christ. Both Christ and Beowulf, as with his fight with
the dragon, scarified themselves to save others. It is clear that the
author thought highly of both loyalty and truth. Through poetic
expression of the author, Beowulf is seen as loyal and representative of
*** The dragon on the other hand was evil to the core. 2824-2825: ìthe
dragon from underneath, /his nightmarish destroyer, / lay destroyed as
well, / utterly without life.î Good conquers evil.
*** Further, passages in Beowulf state (beginning line 2874) ìGod who
ordains who wins or loses allowed him to strike with his own blade when
bravery was needed.î When **** stood behind Beowulf in the great fight
against the dragon, (2855) ìthere was no way he could preserve his lordís
life on earth or alter in the least the Almightyís will. What God judged
right would rule what happened to every man, as it does this day.î This
is a metaphorical allusion to Christ dying on the cross for our sins. It
was Godís will from the beginning, as Christ was the savior of every man,
woman and child, therefore the divine will could not be stopped.
*** In Christian texts we know that God judges the human soul after oneís
death. The price Christ paid for sins what that he descended into hell
for three days, then rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.
*** Beowulf also ìpaidî a heavy cost for a pile of rings (riches), in
which he paid for with his own life. It was said that those who ìwalk in
the path of exileî will bow under woe. That line can be compared to
Biblical similarities pertaining to judgment of the wicked.
***Thus the sin of Cain is a dramatic illustration of good vs. evil. In
Beowulf it is embellished with literal allusions to Christ as the savior,
or ìGoodî and Stain, being profoundly ìevilî.
***Morte Darthur, written by Sir Thomas Malory, is a ravishing British
literary work retelling the French version of the Death of Arthur. The
story is a romantic frolic in the life of Lancelot and his Queen.
Lancelot is a favorite knight of King Arthur. The seductive drama is
loaded with Christian allusions to the cause of forgiveness through
***The main theme of redemption in Morte Darthur has taken on a figurative
allusion to the biblical story of Cain killing able. However, other
Christian allusions appear through out the texts with no direct link to
the main theme.
*** For example, there are twelve Knights of the Round Table and twelve
disciples of Jesus.
Lancelot is a traitor for sleeping with queen. In the story of Jesusí
crucifixion, Judas is the one who betrays Jesus.
*** The shame of betraying the king by sleeping with his queen weighs
heavily on Lancelotís heart. Lancelot says, ìBut and ye be slain I will
take my death as meekly as ever did martyr take his death for Jesu Christí
s sake.î Although Lancelot did not kill himself, the ideas portrayed have
strong religious allusion to Judas hanging himself after betraying Jesus.
*** Revenge for infidelity in Morte Darthur is achievable through the
death of Lancelot and the queen. Sir Gawain would also like revenge, ìfor
the death of my brother Sir Garteh I shall seek Sir Lancelot throughout
seven kindsí realms but I hall slay him, or other else he shall slay me.î
*** Lancelot is banished in Morte Darthur, part of the vengeance King
Author would seek for Lancelot. This is different from Beowulf, in which
Grendel and his kin were banished from the earth. Grendel was a direct
descendent of Cain, who committed fratricide.
*** Lancelotís affair, on the other hand, is a metaphoric allusion to the
Bible because King Arthur saw Lancelot as one of his kin, perhaps like a
*** King Arthur stated, ìthis day I sor missed thee, and alas that ever I
was against thee, for now have I my death, whereof Sir Gawain me warned in
my dream.î The dream King Arthur had was almost like a prophecy, another
common phenomenon in the Christian texts.
*** The death of Christ is centered on redemption if a soul should choose
to accept Christ and repent of all sins. Indirectly, a scene in Morte
Darthur is linked to this Christian philosophy by appearing to be a remake
of the days during Christís trial.
*** While King Arthur is lying on his death bed, he instructs Sir
Bedivere to throw his prized sword into water. Instead, Sir Bedivere
hides it under a tree. King Arthur, ìah, traitor unto me and untrue, Said
King Arthur, ìnow that thou betrayed me twice.î This symbolic
representation of one of the disciples of Jesus named Peter. Peter
betrayed Jesus twice on the night of his crucifixion. Sir Bedivere
betrayed the king twice on the night the king died.
*** The redemption theme thickens when Sir Bedivere, as Peter did, cries
to his king, ìah, my lord Arthur, what shall become of me, now ye go from
me and leave me here alone among mine enemiesî
*** King assures Sir Bedivere all will be well. He says, ìFor I must
into the vale of Avilion to heal me of my grievous wound and if thou hear
nevermore of me, pray for my soul.î Avilion said to be like an earthly
paradise. Jesus said he was going to paradise when he died on the cross.
*** The hermit, who finds King Arthurís body, says that some men in
England say King Arthur is not dead and that ìmen say that he shall come
again and he shall win the Holy Cross.î This is a strong allusion to the
Christian theology that ìhe (Jesus) shall come again to judge the quick
and the dead.î
*** The striking references to the death of Christ symbolize the theme of
redemption through out the whole story. Repentance also occurs among the
queen and Lancelot, who die on separate death beds.
*** Before the death of Lancelot he had a vision of the death of the queen
Guinevere. In the vision he found remission of his sins.
*** Queen Guinevereís parting words were, ìI beseech Almighty God that I
may never have power to see Sir Lancelot with my worldly eyes.î This is a
major change in her heart, for she knew that deceiving the king was wrong.
*** When Lancelot saw the queen, after she died, he wept. He also
repented, became ordained, and recited prayers. It was clear that
Lancelot was forgiven for his sins.
*** ìI trust I do not displease God, for he knoweth mine intentófor my
sorrow was not, not is not, for any rejoicing of sin, but my sorrow may
never have end.î
He also said (page 437) ìme repenteth soreî which means, ìIím sorry.î
Unlike Beowulf, Morte Darthurís Lancelot becomes ìgoodî because he
ìrepented.î There is no shame on Lancelotís as he lay on his death bed.
The elaborate funeral for him was also a display of the peopleís
forgiveness, and they forgave him and he became ìgoodî in their eyes
though his repentance.
*** The forgiveness of Lancelotís sins mimics Christian theology because
Christians believe that through repentance we are reunited with God. The
tribe of Cain was never reunited with God because neither Cain nor his
decedents asked God for forgiveness. Through Morte Darthur the ideaís
of the author and the influence of religion can be recognized in this
literary work of art. It is a blend of classical Christian thought and
the provocative revolution of sexuality during the period in which it was