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Essay about Vengeance in the Epic of Beowulf

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Vengeance in the Epic of Beowulf


Beowulf is the epic story of a young hero who battles the monster Grendel and his mother. Beowulf, a prince of the Geats, the son of Ecgtheow who voyages to Heorot, the hall of Hrothgar, king of the Danes and the great grandson of the hero Scyld Scefing. There at Heorot, Beowulf destroys the monster Grendel, who for twelve years has haunted the hall by night and slain all he found therein. When Grendel's mother, in revenge, makes an attack on the hall, Beowulf seeks her out and kills her in her home beneath the waters.

There are many different events in this story. First, there is the pagan warrior system. In this system, the relationship between the lord and his men, known as the thanes, is very important. It is the responsibility of the thanes to defend their king and their lands and also to fight his wars whenever possible.

The relationship between the lord and the thanes is one of mutual trust and respect. The warrior vows his loyalty to his lord and eventually becomes his companion. In return, the king/lord is responsible for repaying these men for their favors and eventually provide for their households. He offers them shelter, helmets, gold rings, bracelets, swords, beer, mead, and a home. (Norton, 23.)

In the warrior society, there are two forms of retribution, quiet vengeance and the wergild or the "man price" (Norton, 23.). A killer is responsible for paying for the death of a warrior, by paying a member of his family: "Each rank of society is evaluated at a definite price, which has to be paid to the dead man's kinsmen by the killer who wishes to avoid their vengeance - even if the killing has been accidental." (Norton, 23.)
There are also the ideas of fate and courage p...


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...deed of fame, if the evil-doer will come to me out of the earth-hall." (Norton, 59.)

Beowulf's successor is Wiglaf. Wiglaf is the young warrior who sticks by Beowulf's side while he fights with the dragon. Wiglaf is very similar to Beowulf in that he is also courageous and is humble. He is very courageous and shows his courage when he tries to help Beowulf attack the dragon.

Sources

Abrams, M. H. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York; W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1993.

Brodeur, Arthur. The Art of Beowulf.Los Angeles; University of California Press; 1959.

Chambers, R. W. Beowulf. (3rd Edition, Cambridge; Cambridge University Press; 1959.

Fulk, R. D. Interpretations of Beowulf. Bloomington; Indiana University Press; 1991.

Williams, David. Cain and Beowulf: A Study In Secular Allegory. Toronto; University of Toronto Press; 1982.


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