Beowulf The oldest English epic, Beowulf, although composed twelve centuries ago, uses many of the same ideals and values that exist in modern life and modern literature. These attributes are still important, but they do not occupy every aspect of life as in Anglo- Saxon England. Some of the ideals have little use today, such as fate, while other virtues, such as loyalty, are encouraged and highly respected traits. Other values, like fame, have taken on bad connotations in modern day and are not esteemed as they once were. Fate, the idea that destiny is predetermined and nothing can be done to change that, was highly esteemed in Beowulfs time, but is of little use today. Anglo-Saxon warriors knew that they only had two options when they entered battle; either they live to fight again, or they die honorably amounts their own.
Either way was determined by a higher power. The sense of an uncontrollable death left the Anglo-Saxon people without respect for other lives, evident in the amount of fighting in Beowulf, and also an inner gloom, evident in the somber tone of Beowulf, (from the text). Recently, philosophy has broken away from the more religious idea of destiny and moved toward a more logical aproach to life. Obviously, death is still inevitable, but logically, the future should be altered with each decision. Man has become too egocentric to believe someone, besides himself, can control his life.
Loyalty, unlike fate, is still respected as it was in Beowulfs time, but can get overlooked in modern society. The idea to honor those close was the most Christian element of all the Anglo-Saxon traits. It original from the Biblical ideas of honoring God, honoring parents, honoring neighbors, et al. Fidelity between husband and wife is one sign of loyalty. Another is allegiance between countries. The Anglos felt a deep responsibility for fulfilling these duties.
Fortunately, loyalty has held on through the many centuries since Beowulf. Today, man feels a responsibility, but it often gets ignored. Competitition in all forms is the main reason. Personal advancement is too tempting. Still, loyalty is admirable in those who are strong enough to resist temptation. Fame is a less admired quality today than in Beowulf.
Fame meant eternal respect to the Anglo-Saxons. This is partly because fame came mostly after death spread the achievements across the land. Without mass communication, tales of heroic deeds took much more time pass from person to person. Fame was not assured. It was mostly luck that anyone found about of the exploits of someone so far away.
Most Anglo-Saxons were illiterate, therefore the tales had to be told from person to person. Today, fame is not as respected and often held in disdain by common people. Fame seems limited to a few fortunate ones who were in the right place at the right time. Infamy is much more accessible to the majority. The easiest way to get in the news is to kill a large amount of people.
Good deeds go largely unnoticed today. Beowulfs ideals have been along a long time. Though values are determined individually, some remain universal in modern society. Beowulf provides a clear picture of the things that shaped Anglo-Saxon life and how life has changed in the last 1200 years.