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Violence: The Controversial Theme Of Beowulf


“To make sure that struggling time proceeded, problem that never stopped …” (Beowulf 38)

In the epic poem Beowulf, the relation of hostility and heroism is complicated as well as challenging, especially when a contemporary viewers is presented to sights shared from the point of view of the Anglo-Saxon culture base. The obstacle, therefore, is to translate and comprehend the complex view of physical violence that the confidential Anglo-Saxon storyteller presents. The narrator paints a contrasting picture of remarkable physical violence, which brings honor to a warrior, as well as heartbreaking physical violence, which permeates the partnerships between the Anglo-Saxon people.

The most obvious instances of violence in the Beowulf legendary are the summaries of Beowulf’s fights. These summaries are extensive, comprehensive, and normally full of gore. While this may be shocking for a modern audience, the framework of these terrible summaries make it clear that these occasions are something to commend and appreciate. When Beowulf initially flaunts to Hrothgar of his honor, he emphasizes that, “all knew of my awesome toughness. They have seen me boltered in the blood of adversaries” (Beowulf 418). The text plainly suggests that Beowulf’s forceful “avenge [ing of] the Geats” is marvelous and also brave deserving (423 ). The language which surrounds Beowulf as well as his ventures is soaring and classy, glorifying the severity of the violence he makes use of. Likewise, his aggressive activities toward the “beast” Grendel, when” [s] inews divided and also … bone-lappings burst,” is not just worthwhile of appreciation, however of a reception as well as party from Hrothgar’s whole kingdom (816-17). This supports Mallory Carlson’s declaration in her ENGL 41 essay: “Physical violence is at the core of every activity and cultural standard held by the Germanic personalities in Beowulf, so much so, that physical violence in fact transcends its thematic nature and also starts to turn into a kind of excellent merit.”

Outside of this heroic bubble, however, there is a clear distinction in tone between summaries of Beowulf’s splendor and the several Anglo-Saxon feuds. The initial, and also possibly clearest, example of this can be found in the form of a poem within the poem. After Beowulf’s victory over Grendel, a scop sings a ballad telling the terrible story of the Danish Hildeburgh, who is given as a partner to King Finn of the Jutes as security in order to end a lengthy background of revenge killings. However, a feud bursts out once again and also “kid and sibling [and also other half],/ she shed them … on the battleground” (1072 ). Unlike the descriptions of Beowulf’s fight, which concentrated on his actions and the fierce imagery of the fight, the story of Hildeburgh concentrates on the sensations of loss and of her “wail [ing] as well as sing [ing] keens” as her family members are burnt on the funeral pyre (1119 ). The tale does not finish in any type of side’s accomplishment, yet with both sides loosing several men, “the gallant Finn slaughtered in his house,” as well as a sad Hildeburgh reclaimed to her homeland (1146 ). The tale is plainly not one of heroism, yet of tragedy. Likewise, the numerous tales of Anglo-Saxon tribal background are cluttered with examples of heartbreaking physical violence. The years of battles in between the Swedes and the Geats stress example after example of revenges and also fights which just bring about brand-new retributions and battles. As Carlson states in her essay: “The pattern of physical violence in Beowulf … creates a type of cosmic irony. Since retribution is highly valued by Anglo-Saxon societies, there is always reason for human death.” With the exception of Beowulf’s reign as well as a reference of Hrothgar’s, Kings and tribes are shown as constantly up in arms with each other. The cycle gives the clear impression of futility and boundlessness. Every one of these disorderly fights and also backgrounds are seemingly suggested to be contrasted with Beowulf’s power as king, which the narrator states is loaded with an unbelievable half a century of tranquility.

Nevertheless, even within Beowulf’s very own fights are tips of difficulties that the storyteller gives, particularly with the intro of Grendel’s mom. While the defeating of a harmful “monster” needs to be classically illustrated as marvelous as well as respectable, the poet narrator introduces intricacies in the kind of the objectives of Grendel’s mommy. Like the cycles of vengeance within the tribal histories, Beowulf’s killing of Grendel continued the cycle of violence, needing Grendel’s mom to “retaliate her only child” (1546-7). Like the fights between the Anglo-Saxon tribes, the battle between Beowulf as well as the mythological animals of the poem is shown as being reoccuring and intermittent. The poet recommends that this repeating of physical violence may never truly end. If Beowulf had shed to Grendel’s mother, an additional warrior would have attempted to avenge his death, and so on and so forth. It is no little information, as a result, that Beowulf’s fatality is finally brought on by a superordinary animal, the dragon, which the dragon is ultimately eliminated by Beowulf’s thane, Wiglaf. Ultimately, it is Beowulf’s fatality that absolutely indicates a brand-new cycle of violence. Wiglaf tells his fellow warriors that:” [The] vicious fued [with the] Swedes … is bound to revitalize; they will cross our borders as well as attack in force when they find out that Beowulf is dead” (3000-03). The rhyme clearly mentions that this attack is unavoidable and that the cycle of physical violence will absolutely proceed.

With this debatably bleak finishing [2] to the poem, nevertheless, the question remains what the storyteller’s overlapping message is. What does it mean for private violence against “bad” animals to be pietistic, while tribal physical violence is shown as finishing in misfortune and also chaos? The thesis of Beowulf might be that violence may result in fantastic magnificence and praise, yet it likewise brings about what may be viewed as inevitable violence as well as revenge. Nonetheless, a clear development of this thesis is that these visions of violence are not as contradictory as they appear. The poem ends not just with the mourning of Beowulf, however with the applauding of him as a great male. With this in mind, a sensible message of the legendary is that physical violence and also war are unpreventable; after all, there will constantly be beasts, human fights, as well as kings’ fatalities. Nonetheless, warriors such as Beowulf, who grow in fight yet policy with peace, have “heroic nature [s] as well as “greatness” deserving of praise (Beowulf 100). Due to this, there is hope in the futility of heartbreaking physical violence, and that hope is a warrior’s sense of honor and splendor.

Works Mentioned

Beowulf. The Norton Anthology of English Literary Works. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt, et al. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.

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