Beowulf is an epic poem that, above all, gives the reader an idea of a time long past; a time when the most important values were courage and integrity. The only factors that could bestow shower fame upon a person were heroic deeds and family lineage. Beowulf, as the paradigm of pagan heroes, exhibited his desire to amass fame and fortune; the only way to do so was to avenge the death of others. This theme of retribution that is ever present throughout the poem seems to color the identities of its characters.
Revenge is presented both as an honest motive and a rhetorical tactic in Beowulf. For Beowulf himself, reprisal of monsters’ misdeeds is his path to the top: worldwide fame, endless wealth, and universal respect. Grendel’s violence is caused less by revenge than by complete frustration with his situation. Other characters’ actions are fueled directly by a sincere desire for a settling of scores. Grendel’s mother kills Aeschere solely because Beowulf killed Grendel. The last monster that the Hero of the Geats ever faces has only one goal: to guard his hoard of treasure. When his fortune is pilfered, revenge is the dragon’s only way to react. While revenge is a common façade in Beowulf, some characters feel an honest need for retribution and seek it to their life’s end.
Grendel’s mother exhibits the most pure form of revenge out of all of Beowulf’s enemies. She is never heard from or seen until Beowulf kills Grendel and keeps his talon as a token of victory. “... It became clear,/ obvious to everyone... that an avenger lurked and was sti...
... middle of paper ...
...r dying son, Grendel himself, who may appear vengeful, is truly acting out of jealousy and a sense of resentment towards people happier than him. The dragon also acts out of a sense of vengeance, but its actions are ultimately used to create a fateful deathbed for Beowulf. While he Beowulf masks his true intentions with a pretense of vengeance, Beowulf himself best describes the sense of revenge in the poem.
Wise sir, do not grieve. It is always better / to avenge
dear ones than to indulge in mourning. / For every one
of us, living in this world / means waiting for our end.
Let whoever can / win glory before death. When a warrior
is gone, / that will be his best and only bulwark. (Beowulf, 1384-1389)
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