Beowulf and the Inferno


Beowulf and the Inferno are two of history's most influential and famous epic poems.

Comparison of Literary Significance

While Beowulf is recognized as a key piece of literature during the Anglo-Saxon period, and Inferno is well-known due to its numerous adaptations in both references and films throughout literary history. The key point of contention is that, despite the fact that these two are among the most significant works of literature, they are never cited together. This necessitates a thorough investigation and comparison of the two articles. However, having read the two pieces of literature, I have developed more interest in Dante’s Inferno. The Inferno gives a complete glimpse into the afterlife where what people do in their current lives get checked afterward.

The Theme of Punishment in the Inferno

The principle that is widely spread within the Inferno tends to teach the people that whatever actions and steps they take today have direct bearings on their future lives. Outrightly, the word inferno is an Italian word for Hell. The text talks about the fate of those in hell. “But to that second circle of sad hell… about that melancholy storm (Alighieri et al., 2015, p. 37).” Dante talks of the sadness he had witnessed firsthand in hell. The people there have their punishments in accordance with the magnitude of their sins while they were still alive. This is to say that sins have varied scales about Dante’s article. However, the portrayal that Beowulf has in the article is that of a warrior who seems to be flourishing in the decimation of all those who happen to cross his path. This makes him a bloodthirsty warrior thus denting his character compared to that of Dante in Inferno.

Punishments in Hell as Depicted in the Inferno

The Inferno explores the fact that most people might have done a lot of misdeeds in their mortal life and gotten away scot-free. The text mentions that these same people will meet their punishments in hell in the afterlife when their human lives cease to exist. In comparing the protagonists behind the two texts, Beowulf happens to be more vicious whereas Dante, whose textual context is majorly on natural occurrences and how they take control of the nature in which the lives of people wind up later. “Themselves they beheld me when I came from the contest… (Alexander, 2013 p. 45).” Beowulf brags about how he had recognition in the highest of extremes on the battlefield. Seemingly, all that he ever seems to think of is war, liberation, and victory. The heroism thrives so deep in him that it takes absolute control over him. On the other hand, Dante concentrates on explaining the fact that no sin goes unpunished. Notably, Dante appreciates knowledge while what Beowulf cares about is going around slaying monsters. This is one of the major points of distinction between them.

The Role of Intelligence and Strength in Beowulf and the Inferno

The endowments that both characters have help them to play their parts in their respective texts. Dante’s intelligence helps him find his path through Hell while Beowulf’s ferocity and strength pave the way for him to defeat all the monsters that he encounters in his struggle. This gives Beowulf the name, “the head of a hero.” “I went on in the hope that somehow I could vanquish the beast. but then my terror came again, for next, a lion bounded up, enraged and starved (Alighieri et al., 2015, p. 43).” The textual context that Dante is a partial coward makes him a weak character as opposed to Beowulf. However, his ability to thirst for knowledge gives him the ideal qualities and characteristics that a “super-hero” ought to have, and this makes him the typical superhero of all time. He makes up for his lack of physical strength through his intellect and wit. He uses his wit in Hell to defeat monsters that are seemingly out to take his life.

Influence of the Church in Beowulf and the Inferno

In both Dante’s Inferno and Beowulf, the influence and dominion of the church are evident. “From Cain came down all kinds of misbegotten-ogres and elves and evils shades. As also the Giants. Who joined in long wars with God (Alighieri et al., 2015, p. 34).” However, this text from Beowulf totally contradicts the Biblical concept of God’s descendants. The text mentions elves, ogres, and shades as being the descendants of God just as Cain had been, which is incorrect. The text is incongruous to the Biblical perception and both the Norwegian fate and mythology. “They could not, that is, choose Christ; they could, and did, choose human virtue, and for that, they have their reward (Alighieri et al., 2015, p. 24).” This is not the same with Dante’s Inferno, as evident in the text. Inferno may have had the discrepancies that are shown in Beowulf, but then it is not as obtrusive as it is in Beowulf. The Inferno only mentions the Greek mythological characters. The Inferno heavily lays respect for Christian values, principles, and beliefs. This is the reason the original context of the text is on the punishment that awaits the wrongdoers in Hell.

The Role of Heroism in Beowulf and the Inferno

In terms of content, the text in Beowulf strives to prove the fact that the hero should be the one regarded in the society and not the villain. In the contemporary society and movie world, most people become fans of people engaging in vices, making them the villains of the movie, whereas Beowulf tries to overturn this by being a different hero to the people. On the other hand, in the Inferno, Dante plays his role perfectly even though some the initial perception is that he is a weak person. For one to gain the general admiration that would help the people in times of crisis, they need a hero who can maneuver through his brain and come up with the best saving plan. This is the kind of hero that one needs to admire. Knowledge is commonly known to be more potent compared to physical might.

Christian Contextual Comparison

Regarding Christian contextual comparison, Dante’s Inferno holds more weight since it entirely corresponds to the Catholic Church Doctrine. A protagonist’s character has to be in line with the religious ways of the people for him to be a Christian hero. The characters that are required of them by the Bible and those they portray have to merge in that they don’t differ in any kind of manner. This is the same character that Dante portrays in the Inferno. "Sinful ones, who take the things of God. The things that ought to be the right things of Righteousness and make them sin for silver and gold! The time has come to lay judgment (Alighieri et al., 2015, p. 75)." In the text, Dante boldly condemns the sins that are taking control of the people to the extent that they do not have respect for what rightfully belongs to God through the church. This is the character that a Christian hero ought to have as it inspires others to change their evil ways.


Conclusively, Dante has the characters that befit both a Christian and modern hero. This is because modern heroes fight for what they believe is right, not only for themselves but everyone. Dante was selfless in his quests while Beowulf struggled to gain worldly fame since he was known to be a mighty fighter. This ultimately makes Dante a better modern and Christian leader.

Works Cited

Alexander, Michael. Beowulf. , 2013. Print.

Alighieri, Dante, and John Lotherington. The Inferno. New York: Race Point Publishing, 2015. Internet resource.

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