Fate in Beowulf

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Fate in Beowulf

A Twist of Fate for the Great Hero Beowulf Fate seems to be an ongoing theme in the works of Boethius and Beowulf. Whether it is a belief of Christian providence or pagan fatalism, the writers of these works are strongly moved by the concept of fate and how it affects the twists and turns of a person’s life. Fate is most often seen as the course of events in a person’s life that leads them to inevitable death at some time or another.

Throughout the poem Beowulf, the characters are haunted by fate and acknowledge its strong presence in everything that they do. Fate seems to lurk in the shadows of these characters very being and it is this force in which they acknowledge their mortality as human beings. Boethius wrote The Consolation of Philosophy, which may be very helpful in interpreting the meaning of fate in the epic poem Beowulf. Boethius creates fate as a female character that attempts to heal the mind of a troubled man. Richard Green translates some of Boethius’s work in the introduction and interprets this woman’s role as, “She represented fate as a random, uncontrollable force, to be feared or courted, opposed or despised” (xvi). Green goes on to identify fate’s role in the cause of events in life. This connection may be made to further understand the role of fate in Beowulf’s life. Green says, “For the wise man, fortune is a specious identification of fate; the course of events which affect his life may seem random and capricious, and most of them are indeed beyond his control” (xvii). Green is trying to unfold the meaning of fate and Boethius’s intent to illustrate its effects on a man’s life. Boethius himself says that, “Fate moves the heavens and the stars, governs the elements in their mixture, and transforms them by mutual change, it renews all things that are born and die by the reproduction of similar offspring and seeds. This same power binds the actions and fortunes of men in an unbreakable chain of causes and, since these causes have their own origins in an unchangeable providence, they too must necessarily be unchangeable” (Boethius, Book four, poem five, prose six).

Boethius is attempting to identify fate as a force of nature that represents the circle of life and the set sequence of events that are plotted by this unknown force that map out a person’s very existence throughout the course of time. Boethius ackno...

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...pics. Beowulf is a hero and personalized many important aspects and ideals of this time. He was loyal, selfless, and believed in justice. There are many Germanic elements in the poem that are connected to the ongoing theme of fate. Beowulf lived as a warrior-king figure in feudal society. He lived the Germanic Heroic Code that valued loyalty, strength, and courage. Beowulf also conducted himself with many Anglo-Saxon ideals of conduct that included allegiance to the lord and king, the love of glory that rules the meaning and existence of life, and the belief in the inevitability of fate.

Fatalism was a popular mindset of people of this time. Fatalism is the philosophy that all events, actions, or incidents that make up a person’s life are determined by fate. It incorporates the belief that people have little or no control over their destiny because what happens is what is meant to be. In a time when future was uncertain and the lives of people could be taken at any time, fate is an idea that not only kept many people going but that also entangled the minds of people that were once free and took over their every breath and movement as to signal something coming in the future.
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