25 July 2015
Beowulf Critical Review
In “Beowulf and the Passing of Time: Part II,” Paul Dean argues that the clear breaks in the flow of the text are either a result of time in which the transition text was lost, or that the author of the poem intentionally left time unaccounted for to portray the need of a clean break after a certain point or message was emphasized. In part two of Beowulf, the motif of stewardship is seen all throughout the text, from the stewardship of the treasure from the dragon to the stewardship of Beowulf of his position to protect and care for his people. The Lay of the Last Survivor, lamenting the mortality of men from Wiglaf, portrays the superficial nature of what people in this time were actually storing as treasure. Mere possessions have no real value, although this is ironically contrasted with the continual survival and use of swords, armor, helmets, and money. Because the dragon’s stewardship is violated when the thief takes part of the treasure, Beowulf recognizes the punishment and wrath for this attempt to steward that which did not belong to men when the dragon lays waste to man’s dwelling.
The predictable fate of Beowulf at the hands of the dragon is a furthering of the lack of stewardship over time, which is seen as Beowulf reflects over his many feats during his youths and then the descriptions of Beowulf in his old age. Dean argues that even Beowulf’s decision to wear armor in his fight against the dragon, which he refused to do at all other battles in the poem, is a portrayal of the degradation of Beowulf’s body and morality over time for the lasting objects found in armor. This points to how Beowulf is already becoming dead even before facing the dragon, which makes his battle ultimately against time. Although Beowulf is losing the battle physically against time, the spiritual war that is being waged in the poem is alluded to when Beowulf’s temporal work is deemed finished, hinting that there was...