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Pride and Prudentius: Beowulf and the Seven Deadly Sins

Pride and Prudentius: Beowulf and the Seven Deadly Sins

By Mary O’Connor

Estro: Essex Student Research Online, Vol.4:1 (2011)

Abstract: The period during which Beowulf was composed was one of great transition. The poem itself embodies and represents the conflict between the culture of the pagan settlers and Christianity. A particular aspect of the Christian doctrine was the allegorical poem, Psychomachia, by the Roman Prudentius. This work illustrates how an awareness of the concept of the seven deadly sins influenced the Beowulf poet. This work also explores the conflict between the warrior culture of the pagans and the ideologies behind the Christian conversion. Drawing on comparative quotations between Beowulf and Psychomachia, the work aims to highlight how the internal struggle of the title character of Beowulf reflected the moral dilemma posed between wanting worldly glory, to be gained from a life of pagan warrior culture, and conversely the eternal life, to be achieved from religious spirituality. This conflict ultimately reveals the main societal issue during the British Christian conversion.

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