Essay Truth and Justice in Beowulf
- Date:Jul 07, 2019
Beowulf is an 11th century Anglo Saxon poem written by an unknown which is considered the most important part of Anglo-Saxon literature. Justice prevails in the poem from beginning to the end of the poem. When Beowulf gets to know about the monster, he goes on to defend the people and warriors from this monstrous creature. The monster, Grendel, his mother, and an unknown dragon are the three main antagonists of the poem.
The king offers half of his kingdom’s gold to the person who gives the kingdom freedom from these monsters that have been giving the civilians and warriors a hard time and has ruthlessly killed them. “Thy fathers combat a feud enkindled/when Heathlaf with a hand he slew/among the Wylfings, Straightway the feud with the fee I settled,/to the Wylfings sent, or watery ridges,/treasures olden: oaths he swore me,” (Beowulf 459-472)
The first instance of justice is when Grendel is being killed by Beowulf. During the fight between Beowulf and Grendel, Beowulf fights with him with bare hands because according to him it would be fair to fight with Grendel. He could have killed Beowulf comparatively easily with a weapon but Beowulf wants to have a just fight with Grendel.
“In truth, the Geats prince gladly trusted/his mettle, his might, the mercy of God!/Cast off then his corselet of iron/helmet from head; to his henchmen gave, -/choicest of weapons, – the well-chased sword,/ bidding him guard the gear of battle,” (669-674)
The first instance at which justice is shown by Beowulf is when Grendel tells Beowulf that she wants to have him father a child with her but he refuses, as according to him justice will only prevail if by her death. She could easily have led a good life by accepting Grendel’s proposal but he didn’t because accepting her proposal would have meant more deaths of the warriors which would, in turn, lead to the ineffectiveness of the leader, and would lead to injustice in the kingdom.
Second instance of justice is when the king advices Beowulf on how to rule the kingdom once he becomes the king; the reason he does that was to make sure that once Beowulf becomes the king he shall treat the people in the same way he did by not providing them justice with the way Grendel, his mother, and the dragon was killing the warriors. What has to be comprehended here is that the King knew that Beowulf would be the perfect candidate for his kingdom: “All-knowing God/ Must have sent you such words; nothing so wise/ From a warrior so young has ever reached/ These ancient ears…If your lord,/ Hrethels son, is slain by a spear,/ Or falls sick and dies…I say that the Geats/ Could do no better, find no man better/ Suited to be king, keeper of warriors/ and their treasure, than you…, Beloved Beowulf.” (1841-1852)
And if he prefers justice when fighting Grendel barehanded, he would provide an even better justice with the sword in his hand.
After a dragon appears and burns down the whole village, Beowulf realizes that the dragon is his own son and Grendel’s mother is bargaining on the deal. Beowulf realizes that the dragon and his evil mother shall be killed, so he decides to kill the dragon first even though he knows that the dragon is his own son. This shows another sign of Beowulf being committed to justice after all the dragon was his son, and there might be some kind of love harbored by Beowulf towards him but without any thinking or ridiculous intellectualization, he decides to kill the dragon, and even loses his own life in the accomplishment of the mission.
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