Rituals of Death within Literature

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The “rituals” of death within literature can be seen as based upon the protagonist. Usually the deaths of those surrounding the protagonist, will ironically suffer the same fate. Whether from Beowulf, or from William Shakespeare’s well-known plays Hamlet, and Macbeth, there stands a ritualistic “connection” between these literary works. These literary works possess the acts of dying a purposeful, heroic death as well as heinous suicides. These deaths are ritualized differently on the basis of religious beliefs—influenced by the year written—as well as the overall “goodness” of the departed. Beowulf, is an Anglo-Saxon epic poem composed by an anonymous poet between the 8th to the early 11th centuries. Beowulf, tells the story of a strong, brave warrior who could defeat anyone, and anything without an ounce of fear. Close to the end of the story, Beowulf becomes a great ruler, and rules over many years, until tragedy strikes. A dragon becomes unleashed, and with it came a massive destruction wherever, and whoever the dragon came across with. Beowulf—knowing his death was fast approaching—fought the dragon with the intention to save his kingdom. Although Beowulf’s intentions were fulfilled, his heroic fight for the wellbeing of his people ended in his death. Indeed, Beowulf died a hero. As a result, the townspeople acted ritualistically. They burned his body on a funeral pyre, and buried his remains along with a massive treasure on a barrow overlooking the sea. This ritualistic burial allowed everyone to remember the great, heroic king Beowulf once was. The tale of Beowulf, represents the culture, and traditions held during the Anglo-Saxon –Old English—period. Burial practices in the Anglo-Saxon era consisted of cremation, and buria... ... middle of paper ... ...uicide in hopes of joining Romeo for eternity. Such examples could signify the similarities between Shakespeare’s life and his fictional stories. The rituals from these literary works were based upon the “goodness” of the person, and the religious beliefs held upon the time written. From Beowulf, the protagonist was laid to rest in a burrow along with a massive treasure. In Hamlet, Ophelia’s funeral is performed as a traditional Christian funeral, even though “religiously” the funeral contradicted the Christian faith. As for Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, her self-inflicted death was given no remorse. Lady Macbeth’s atrocious acts and “evil” intentions rendered her from having any sort of a “proper” burial. Throughout these literary work pieces, the rituals performed for the departed were influenced by the time period written, as well as the morality of the individual.

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