Free Rome And Beowulf  Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Beowulf, Society, Family, Grendel, Women, Structure, Literature, Parents

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/16

Beowulf is hailed as one of the most significant epic works in the Old English literature. The poem presents an elaborated description the mood and life of the age that it was authored written in the Anglo-Saxon period. The poem concerns the adventures of a Scandinavian hero, Beowulf. Trivial information exists about the motive, date and author of the poem; however, the heroic values and focus on paganism and Christianity is apparent. Over the years, the societal depiction in Beowulf has been hotly debated. For instance, a Late Mediterranean Roman would regard the society demonstrated to be staggeringly violent and primitive in the poem, and in this way, lacking any social and political structure. Nonetheless, the society depicted in the poem its unique social structure, which slightly departed from that of the Romans. In this discussion, the social structure of the society described in Beowulf will be contrasted to that of the Romans, as well a clear delineation of the unique social structure of this society, Germanic Societal structure.
The poem starts off by giving an account of the Danish Kings’ history. The first king, Shild, was succeeded by many other Kings and finally his great grandson, King Hrothgar, took over. Afterwards, Beowulf, a nephew of Hygelac, the king of the Geats, got wind that Grendel, a monster with the body of a human being, had been raiding Heorot, the Danish hall of King Hrothgar. Under the company of his fourteen warriors, Beowulf travels through the sea to Denmark so as to eliminate the grievous beast, Grendel. Fortunately, Beowulf succeeds in killing Grendel; however, Grendel’s mother embarks on a battle against the Danes as a protraction for his fallen son’s mission. Beowulf managed to bump off Grendel’s mother at the lair beneath the lake. As a result, Beowulf is rewarded with Danish treasures and plaudit. After returning to his country, he is made king of the Geats, and after serving for fifty years, Beowulf managed to fight down a dragon that was attacking the Geats. In spite of his men abandoning him, Beowulf pursued the dragon, and finally killed it with fiddling support from Wiglaf, his loyal retainer. However, Beowulf succumbs to the injuries he suffered while combating the dragon. Subsequently, his people erect a funeral pyre while celebrating and praising the hero.
The degree of violence in the poem is elevated insofar that a Roman would have considered the society out of that to be violent and primitive. Grendel, his mother, and Beowulf exhibit a degree of violence throughout the poem. For instance, Grendel’s attack on the Hall of Heorot was considered to be “grim and fierce”.The mere description of the attack gives much insight into the violent nature of the society. However, the motives for violence among the characters varied greatly, and this seemed to be the ground on which a Roman would consider the society to be lacking social structure and primitive.
The society depicted in Beowulf went contrary to the Roman social values on rage. The antiques Roman values on rage dictated that one would only be enraged provided that he or she was in a battle with an enemy of the community. However, the form of rage, of the characters in the society in Beowulf is aberrant as per the Romans. Beowulf, for instance, battles against Grendel not because he wanted to help the Geats to get rid of their enemy; it is because he wanted to advance his honor and status as a warrior. Rather than staying focused on the war, Beowulf’s pride compels him to boast about how he will win the war against Grendel even without being armed. While awaiting Grendel to arrive, Beowulf maintains “I count myself no less on battle strength, in war deeds than Grendel does”. If at all Beowulf’s objective was to protect the Geats from this dangerous enemy, he would not have made the battle to seem like a personal struggle like he did. Besides, he would have portrayed his bravery through his actions rather than being a braggart and making it known to each and every soul. Given this, the rage exhibited by Beowulf was a sign of primitivism and lack of social structure in the society.
What is more is that the society described in Beowulf was full of vengeance, which was in itself contrary to the Roman social structure. The Roman values turned down any acts of revenge in the ancient period unless it was directed at an enemy during a battle. However, Beowulf’s involvement in slaying of Grendel’s mother was motivated by vengeance. After learning that one of the Heorot men had been killed by Grendel’s mother, he is taken to task to revenge the death by killing Grendel’s mother. He even declares “it is better to avenge one’s friend than to mourn too much”. Intrinsically, Beowulf vengeance was directed not to his personal enemy or an enemy of his community, but to an enemy of a friend. Besides, Grendel’s mother revenges after his son is killed rather than cowering in grief. She was agitated of her son’s defeat in the war and attempted all ways possible to inflict the same pain on the Danes for killing her son. Similar to her son, she is evil and “desperate for revenge”. Perhaps, Grendel’s mother sought for revenge because of the love she had for his son; however, this was not the right thing to do as per the Roman values. As a result, a Roman would consider this society to be rich in primitiveness and deficient in societal structure.
However, in this new society, the aspect of the role of women in society was unintelligible. During this age, women had little power and influence in Rome. In fact, their existence was attributed to the mercy of their husbands and fathers. Given this, the sole role of women was to bear children and conduct domestic tasks. In the society demonstrated in the poem, the role of women is presented to in line with the Late Mediterranean Roman social structure in one hand, whereas on the other, women are depicted to be substantially influential. For instance, Grendel’s mother is punished for not being unassertive and peaceful. In a bid to revenge her son’s death, she managed to kill one of the Dane warriors, but Beowulf managed to slay her. In essence, Beowulf was upholding the Roman social structure concerned with the role of women in society. It means that the society was not treating women as equals to men, albeit partially. On the other hand, Wealhtheow is not punished for attempting to portray her influence over the kingdom by imploring Beowulf to back her son in claiming the throne after the demise of her husband. An attempt by a woman to exert her influence over the dynasty succession was uncommon. However, Beowulf went on and supported Wealhtheow’s son, and he succeeded his father. The unintelligibility of the women’s role in society stems from the fact that whereas the acts of the two women were similar in their inherent nature, one was punished whereas the other was spared. This unintelligibility hampers readers from comprehending the role of women in society as depicted in the in Beowulf.
Notwithstanding the lack of the Roman societal structure in the Beowulf, it is not justified to render the society of Beowulf to be lacking structure. Instead, the structure was in existence, but in another form. First, the structure of the Beowulf society is demonstrated by the loyalty of Beowulf and Wiglaf. Beowulf involved himself in the battle against Grendel, so as to repay his father’s ‘debt’. In the past, Hrothgar had helped Beowulf’s father end a feud and through helping the Danes eliminate Grendel, Beowulf was reciprocating for his father. Besides his motive of enhancing his honor, Beowulf stayed loyal to his father insofar that he paid his ‘debts’. Similarly, Wiglaf demonstrated his loyalty to his king Beowulf while he was combating the dragon. All the men desolated the king, but Wiglaf followed him to the fray and promised him “I shall stand by you”. It is an indication of an ideal social structure in the sense that the actions of people were driven by loyalty, especially to those who are above someone in the social hierarchy.
Additionally, the social structure is evidenced by the weight placed on the establishment of identity in the poem’s society. Through the poem, the male characters are identified as their father’s sons. It is rare for the author to introduce the characters without mentioning the family lineage. For instance, the history of the Danish kings was aimed at emphasizing the importance of establishing identities in the society. To boot, Beowulf seeks to heighten his honor and fame by slaying Grendel because will consider this as the only way of being remembered even after his death. Practically, he did not concur with the Christian view that there is life after death, and thence worked relentlessly in order for his descendants to positively establish the identity to him. The social structure in Beowulf society is apparent in the sense that the reputation of the ancestors moved through the generations of the lineage.


Cory, Eleanor. 2010. Bravery, Honor, and Loyalty as Morals in Beowulf. Aurora, IL: Digital
Gedacht, Daniel C. 2004. Home life in ancient Rome. New York: Power Kids Press.
Lanpher, Ann P. 2010. The Problem of Revenge in Medieval Literature: Beowulf, The
Canterbury Tales, and Ljósvetninga saga. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.
McNaughton, Craig.2011. Envy, Revenge, and Death: The Monsters of Beowulf. Milwaukee,
WI: Marquette University Press.
Newton, Sam. 2004. The origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking kingdom of East Anglia.
Cambridge: Brewer.
Procházková, Petra. 2007. Female Characters in Beowulf. Brno, Czech Republic: Masaryk
Wymer, Thomas L. & Labbie, Erin F. 2004. Civilized Rage in Beowulf .Bowling Green, Ohio:
Bowling Green State University Press.

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