Commitatus In Beowulf

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The English epic, Beowulf, though believed to be the story of the successes of one hero, really is a testament to the successes of the society that produced the hero. The ideals such as interlacing and comitatus that were so highly regarded by the society were the main factors in the successes of the Anglo Saxon people. The ideal of comitatus that permeates various aspects of Anglo Saxon society is indicative of the society in which a character such as Beowulf would have existed. Comitatus is a mutual relationship in which loyalty and respect carry between a man and his leader. In this bond, a king and his thane must fulfill certain distinct roles. But kings and warriors are not the only ones whose roles play a key part in success. The clear …show more content…
The relationship between the thane or warrior with their leader is based on the idea of comitatus. This implies that the warrior will support his leader at all costs. They must be ready to sacrifice everything up to and including their life. The greatest honor for the Anglo Saxon warrior is to die in battle. Through fulfilling this, they fulfill their role as a soldier. In the first two battles Beowulf’s men exhibit great comitatus. This could be seen as the source of Beowulf’s victory. In his last battle, Wiglaf is Beowulf’s only soldier that lives up to the requirement of comitatus. When Beowulf’s men desert him as he fights with the dragon, Wiglaf tells them, “I would rather my body were robed in the same burning blaze as my gold-giver’s body than to go back home bearing arms. That is unthinkable, unless we have first slain the foe and defended the life of the prince of the Weather-Geats” (2651). A king cannot stand alone. It requires more than one person to protect a kingdom. There must be a leader and followers. If one or the other is weak, failure is assured. The warriors reflect the virtue of their king. Their most important role is making sure they uphold the image of their king. A moment of weakness on the part of the warriors could bring about threats from other kingdoms trying to take advantage of any frailty in the hierarchy of the Anglo Saxon

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