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Three Good Kings Of Beowulf


The expression “he was a great king” appears 3 times in Beowulf. The first model (line 11) is a tribute to Guard Sheafson. By describing Sheafson in honorific terms, the poet recommends that Sneafson’s spawn are additionally worthy of respect. The 2nd iteration describes Hrothgar, offspring of Sheafson; the poet tells us “yet there was no laying of blame on their lord/ the honorable Hrothgar; he was a great king” (862 ). Right here, the expression shields Hrothgar from invidious comparison to the more youthful and also a lot more able-bodied Beowulf. The last and last repeating applies to Beowulf, who stands in the position of followed boy to Hrothgar. The poet specifies “Heardred lay slaughtered and also Onela returned/ to the land of Sweden, leaving Beowulf/ to ascend the throne, to being in majesty/ and subjugate the Geats. He was a great king.” Each model of the phrase “he was a great king” reverberates incredibly as well as recollects the previous use. What did being a “good king” indicate to the Anglo-Saxons? What did these three personalities of various generations share beyond their ancestry? Offered the rep of this phrase, these questions advantage better scrutiny.

The very first feature shared by Sheafson, Hrothgar and Beowulf was their fully grown age when their gained the honorific “excellent king.” Although the visitor is informed that “Guard was still flourishing when his time came/ and also he went across over into the Lord’s keeping” (26-27), our impact of him is as an experienced leader that had actually lived enough time to raise Beowulf to young the adult years and lay “down the law amongst the Danes” (29 ). In a similar way, upon meeting Beowulf, Hrothgar is referred to as “an old male among retainers” (578 ). The recommendations to his great age are practically unrelenting: Hrothgar is “the grey-haired prize giver” (607 ), “the grey-haired royal prince” (1792) and also “that good and also grey-haired Dane, that high-born king” (1870-1871). Finally, Beowulf as well lastly earns the appellation “good king” after “he ruled it well/ for fifty winter seasons, aged and sensible/ as warden on the land” (2208-2210). He is currently a “experienced king” (2417 ), who in the face of fatality remembers his young people saying “many an altercation I survived when I was young” (2426) and also openly states, “currently I am old” (2412 ). Wanting to these three leaders, young people is clearly is not a credentials of a “great king.” One should have very first “wintered right into knowledge” (1725 ).

The second feature shared by these three “excellent kings” is their capability to dominate their opponents. In a culture where intense battle-tested warriors were common, it was not nearly enough to simply beat one’s enemies; one must remain to subjugate them. Being a “hall-wrecker,” “scourge of lots of people” as well as terrorizer of “the hall troups” wanted to advantage Sheafson the appellation “great king;” he likewise needed to control them so that “each clan on the out-of-the-way shores beyond the whale-road had to yield to him/ and also start to pay tribute” (10-11). Likewise, Hrothgar comments “I was then in the initial flush of royalty, developing my persuade over all the abundant fortress/ of this heroic land,” consequently obtaining a vow of allegiance from Ecgtheow. Although we are told that “the fortunes of war preferred Hrothgar” (64 ), had he stopped working to “establish his guide” and also consolidate his jackpots, he can not have constructed Heorot, his catbird seat. Last but not least, Beowulf too is not recognized as a “great king” because he slew Grendal as well as Grendal’s mommy. Such success alone are insufficient. Beowulf is referred to as a “great king” just after he took the throne of a nation compromised by battles with Sweden and also

… Contrived to retaliate

The autumn of his royal prince; he befriended Eadgils

When Eadgils was friendless, aiding his reason

With weapons and also warriors over the large sea,

Sending him his males. The fight was cleared up

On a comfortless project when he eliminated Onela. (2391- 2396)

Although the poet does not share the details of Beowulf’s battles with the Swedes, it is assumed that “settling the feud” related to controling the Swedes so thoroughly that fifty years of peace followed. Just the fatality of Beowulf elevates the specter of further problems with the Swedes as well as Franks. In each instance, merely winning fights in the lack of any kind of consolidation of one’s profits would have not warranted the honorific “excellent king.” Indeed, Hrothgar makes use of Heremod as an example of a negative king since his “increase worldwide brought … just fatality and damage” (1711-1712).

The last characteristic of a great king is tactical generosity. Throughout the rhyme, gift-giving is deliberately used to award as well as bind people to one another. A good king increases this technique to an art, consequently assuring the recipient’s loyalty. Although the poet is silent regarding any certain characteristics of Sheathson’s, the viewers might infer that the fantastic wealth of weapons and also gold prize heaped upon his funeral prow was given, at least in part, in recognition of his gifts to the country. The generosity of Hrothgar and Beowulf is much better documented. The reader is consistently told that Hrothgar “doled out rings and torques” (80) as well as guaranteed Beowulf that “there will certainly be nothing that you will want for/ no life goods that won’t be your own.” He not only awarded Beowulf with amazing treasures upon slaying both Grendal and Grendal’s mother; he also “went on to compensate the others/ each man on the bench who had sailed with Beowulf” (1049-1050). By prolonging his kindness beyond Beowulf, Hrothgar gains the loyalty of every one of the Geats. Ultimately, Beowulf as well shows fantastic generosity. Instead of keeping the war equipment as well as steeds given to him by Hrothgar, he provided these to King Hygelac, noting their family tree (as well as all it implies) saying:

[Hrothgar] stated it belonged to his older brother,

King Heorogar, who had lengthy maintained it,

Yet that Heorogar had actually never ever bestowed it

To his son Heoroweard, that worthwhile scion, dedicated as he was (2158-2162).

In presenting these gifts, the fatherless Beowulf remains to seal his location in Hygelac’s family, therefore earning their regard as well as depend on and also transforming himself from one who “had actually been improperly regarded” (2183) to a mature hero.

In conclusion, Sheafson, Hrothgar and also Beowulf all share great age, generosity as well as the confirmed capacity to dominate one’s adversaries. Just the last of these attributes appears constant with the Germanic principles; generosity and also regard for excellent age are not characteristics of the Anglo-Saxons. Close assessment of attributes shared among these rulers recommends that a ruler should both embody the Germanic values as well as transcend it prior to making the honorific “good king”.

Functions Mentioned

Beowulf. Trans. Seamus Heaney, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000

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