Victory Without Weapons: "Beowulf"

Essay by ahmederum August 2007

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Both Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight were composed at a time when the British civilization was constantly under the threat of violence and conflict. There were many enemies inside and outside the British domain. These enemies were both natural and supernatural forces. The great men of the British civilization, therefore, always had to be equipped with the best in weapons and armor so as to frighten their foes and protect their peoples. Elaborate arrangements had to be made. The show of strength on the part of the British was not a simple task. In order to maintain peace and safety, weapons and armor were of immense importance, though these tools were not always utilized in a fight against foe. In fact, both Beowulf and Sir Gawain can fight without the use of weapons and armor. Both are heroes, and both are essential as models for their civilization.

In Beowulf, it is made clear to the reader that heroes and their brave acts are crucial for the protection of a civilization. Times were uncertain and turbulent, and feuds were the order of the day. A feud at the time of Beowulf is described by David Day as a "combat between armed bands of hillbillies living within a relatively small and isolated geographic area, not a clash of arms between sovereign political entities". In Beowulf, in particular, feuds are defined by reciprocity and fought often on the basis of ideology. Moreover, these feuds are virtually endless.

The first half of the poem deals with Beowulf's defense of the mead hall Heorot, which is a very important element of the civilization at the time. It is under attack once again by Grendel, who is a monstrous descendant of Cain that has appeared out of the marshes. Grendel...