A Study on the Topic of Devotion and Retribution
Loyalty, Vengeance and Beowulf
Loyalty and vengeance at times go hand in hand in many chivalrous stories like Beowulf. To understand the connect you must know the meaning of both themes. Loyalty means the strong feeling of support and allegiance while vengeance is to enact retribution for an injury or loss. When someone is loyal to another at times they will do whatever it takes to help whoever they are loyal to. A example of vengeance, if a king was wronged his knights loyal to him will right the wrong by punishing the one who wronged their king. Beowulf has the perfect setting of loyalty and vengeance. There is no known author but the emotion displayed through the writing shows great adoration and awe towards Beowulf.
Beowulf is the story of a knight, hero and later on king named Beowulf. Beowulf is the son of Ecgtheow who’s the brother in-law of Hygelac and Hrothgar’s friend. The reason he remained so loyal to these two rulers, Hrothgar and hygelac, is because they had a close relationship to his father who was well-known by many people He would do anything for his family, kingdom, and friends. “That country then saw Beowulf of the Scydlings. Renowned among the peoples, a beloved king. Rulings many years-his father and lord. ” (page 2, line 52-55) Beowulf is the leader and ruler of Spear-Danes and he was loved by many people. He had an heir named Healfdene who was equally loved and guided his people with great wisdom. Halfdane has three sons and one daughter who became the queen of Swedes. This shows that Beowulf is loved by the people. “The glory of the sword, and his friendly kinsmen flocked to serve him till the band of them was great, a host of eager retainers.” (Line 66-67) The soldiers even followed Beowulf to the most treacherous battles in their lives. They even followed him when Grendel became rampant and ravaged the mead hall they built for Spear-Danes. Hrothgar was devastated, Grendel striked so much fear and hatred that the mead hall stood empty for twelve years and the people turned to the Devil for help. “This Grendel feud became known at home to Hygelac’s warrior, brave among the Geats…He had himself prepared a sound sea-vessel, and said he would visit the strong king beyond the swan’s way.” (page 6, line 195–200) Hygelac, ruler of the Geats, finds out about Hrothgar and told Beowulf about it; who in turn decided at a whim to help Hrothgar as soon as possible. Because of their linked relationship, he was willing to help Hrothgar as soon as possible and this shows loyalty. Even when Hrothgar finds out Beowulf arrival, he regarded the man as a loyal friend. “Him i knew when he was but a boy; his father was old, ecgtheow he was called…It is in the favor of holy god that he comes to visit us, comes to the danes, come for the horror of grendel.” (page 11, line 372-385) He meets up with Beowulf and his fourteen strongest warriors. Beowulf promises to avenge Hrothgar and his people by defeating Grendel which is an example of vengeance just as much as loyalty.
Vengeance plays a key role in Beowulf, it is the dark side to loyalty since the most loyal of subjects may do inexplicable things for their lord. “The ties of kinship meant that the relatives of a murdered person were obliged to exact vengeance for his or her death.” (Britain Express Website) Beowulf promised to avenge Hrothgar and the many who lost their lives. This is the first sign of vengeance, although in our point of view we would naturally see this as a positive favor since they are mostly human. When Beowulf maimed Grendel , Grendel’s mother find out and in sheer rage killed more men and destroyed the mead hall. Here, we will view this as an attack or an act of vengeance in a negative way. This “we” would be partially correct. However, the mother’s vengeance would be no different than Beowulf’s vengeance. Possible in Grendel’s and his mother’s point of view, they are doing nothing that they think is wrong no matter how twisted they are to us. “Grendel’s mother is known to be thirsting for revenge. Known unto earth-folk, that still and avenger outlived the loathed one, long since the sorrow.” (Beowulf and ANglo Saxon Poem located in section “The Mother of Grendel”, line 5-8) This shows that Grendel’s mother wants revenge for her son’s injury. She caused just as much damage or if not more to the Swede-Danes. It hurt Beowulf’s pride. An another act of revenge was when he went to Grendel’s lair and not only killed the mother, he also decapitated Grendel only to offer the severed head to Hrothgar. His loyalty to Hrothgar made it so that he would make sure his promises are thorough and completed with a hundred percent effort.
The thought of vengeance has a negative connotation to it because of our history. Human history on loyalty and vengeance are multiple football fields full, too many to account for. This essay will concentrate on Anglo-Saxon history since Beowulf’s life would have occurred at that time. “Edward, however, was only 15 and was hot-tempered and ungovernable. He had powerful rivals, including his half-brother Aethelred’s mother, Elfrida (or ‘Aelfthryth’). She wanted her own son to be king – at any cost.” (HistoryExtra) This website later explains that King Edward ent to see Elfrida and Aethelred. This was the perfect opportunity for Elfrida and Aethelred, and as soon as Edward got comfortable the “grooms grabbed his bridle and stabbed him repeatedly in the stomach.” This is a perfect example of vengeance since Elfrida did view Edward as an hot tempered king and found it unfair to her own son who was more suitable to the crown. However, after his death there was a lot of people who did not agree with the succession of King Aethelred. “According to Theodoric Paulus, Edward “was a young man of great devotion and excellent conduct. He lived a completely orthodox, good and holy life. Moreover, he loved above all things God and the Church. He was generous to the poor, a haven to the good, a champion of the Faith of Christ, a vessel full of every virtuous grace.” (Geni_Family_Tree) Although King Edward did have his temper towards his family or higher authority, he did care for the church and his people. A lot of people regarded him as a saint, and they believed that his body cures ailments like 0blindness or illnesses. They called him a “Martyr” which mean a person who was killed because of religious beliefs or political reasons. While most of the people branded Aethelred the“Unready” King showing that his people did not view him as a competent lord. The people certainly had been loyal to King Edward.
Till this very day, all of us follow a loyalty and vengeance scheme. Look at all the wars everyone has been involved in, from the Trojan War till to today’s war and violences. The only difference we have is the technology we have and the population amount. Look past the minor detail, even ignore them, and the reasons these wars are started is because of a vicious cycle of loyalty to vengeance.
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Loyalty, Vengeance and Beowulf Loyalty and vengeance at times go hand in hand in many chivalrous stories like Beowulf. To understand the connect you must know the meaning of both […]