Transcendentalism in Beowulf and Antigone

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Transcendentalism in Beowulf and Antigone

As time progressed through the various ages, Ancient to Renaissance, a trend began to form in the literature. The Ancient periods, reflected in the writings of the Taoists and the Greeks, were basically a time of transcendentalism. The gods of this era were treated almost as if they are friends to the people, or advisors; the gods controlled their fates and the uncontrollable, but the people were still very individualistic. As time progressed forwards, a trend swept Europe towards a period of theism, where the god or gods are treated as father figures; the gods controlled the lives of all their people just as parents control their children, even, as Martin Luther
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Two works are particularly representative of this attitude during the period, Beowulf, and The Confessions by St. Augustine. Beowulf is a parable that shows the consequences of losing faith in God and placing too much faith in oneself. Throughout the poem, the character Beowulf moves constantly from a pride based in God and the greater powers to a pride based upon the strength of himself. The parable becomes evident when he turns all of his trust to himself, and is ultimately defeated by the great dragon. When Beowulf is sleeping in Heorot, waiting for Grendel to attack, the poet describes his piety: "The Geatish hero put all his hope / In his fearless might and the mercy of God!" (Davis, page 1136). By placing "all his hope" in the "mercy of God," Beowulf is reassured that he will win the battle. Several lines down, Beowulf himself reasserts this idea as he says, "‘And God in his wisdom shall glory assign, / The ruling Lord, as He deems it right’" (Davis, 1136). These lines are bold statements of Beowulf’s complete faith in God to help him win in battle against the forces of evil. As the book progresses, Beowulf’s pride turns slowly from pride based in the glory of God to pride based in the self, resulting in Beowulf’s downfall. Before entering battle with the dragon, he says, "‘I came in safety through many a conflict . . . Old as I am, I will fight this feud, / Do manful deeds, if the dire destroyer / Will come from his cavern to meet my sword’" (Davis,

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