Beowulf Historical Context

Gareth Hinds
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Introduction

The historical Hygelac died circa 521. The Beowulf manuscript was written about 1000 A.D. In the intervening centuries there was both change and continuity in every area of Anglo-Saxon life. Because we cannot date Beowulf with certainty, we cannot draw specific parallels. We do not know if the society the poet described is the one he or she knew firsthand and projected into the past from his or her present, or if it was a poetic reconstruction, pieced together from memories, older Anglo-Saxon and Latin poetry.

Loyalty and Society

Throughout this period, however, some things remained constant. One is the personal loyalty which held society together. The mutual loyalty within the kindred and within the war band was at the heart of Anglo-Saxon social organization. Institutions were centered on individuals. A noble, even a royal household was held together by loyalty to a lord who was generous and...

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This section contains 1,046 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Beowulf Study Guide
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Beowulf from Epics for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.