Death Theme In Beowulf

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Death, an ominous and dark subject, is very frequent in medieval literature. In the passages read so far this semester, each have had some mention of death literal and figurative, which is a dismal subject, but still brings about celebration. What an author emphasizes and how he delivers the message of death in his work shows what he celebrates in his work. Different writers focus on different aspects of death to convey and reveal to the reader what he celebrates in death. Some praise the cause of death while others praise the life once lived. How the author portrays and talks about death shows what they celebrate death or life, which directly affects how the reader understands and analyzes the entire work. Each passage thus far in the …show more content…
Beowulf is the hero who goes and fights and wins against the monsters. Beowulf defeats Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. In the time of Beowulf, feuds, arguments between family or groups, was the justice system. There were no written laws, Instead it was understood that if the feuds led to death that the family whose relative was killed were owed restitution through the death of the killing family’s relative. This escalated to kin-slaying where members of the same family were killing each other. This where Beowulf picks up. Grendel, a member of Cain’s clan is a direct descendent of kin slaying. Grendel attacks the mead-hall, which is an attack to the whole community. This leads to the fight between Grendel and Beowulf. The author uses very vivid and exact descriptions of the fight, “Then his (Grendel’s) rage boiled over, he ripped open the mouth of the building, maddening for blood, pacing the length of the patterned floor with his loathsome tread, while a baleful light flame more than light, flared from his eyes” (Greenblatt 56). This excerpt shows the rage rising in Beowulf as the fight is about to start. Beowulf and his men ready, “with their ancestral blades. Stalwart in action, they kept striking out on every side, seeing to cut straight to the soul” (58). “Seeing to cut straight to the soul” is specific and harsh wording which shows that …show more content…
This creates a love triangle between Tristran, Ysolt, and Ysolt of white hands (Tristran’s wife) in Le Roman de Tristran. Tristran is on his death bed and longs to be with Ysolt. Tristran asks his wife if she sees Ysolt coming. His wife lies and that leads Tristran in a downward spiral of grief, that he will die without seeing his love one last time. As he is overwhelmed with sadness, he says, “God save Ysolt and me! Since you will not come to me I must die for your love. I can hold on to life no longer. I die for you, Ysolt, dear love! You have no pity for my sufferings, but you will have sorrow of my death. It is great solace to me that you will have pity for my death” (136). Tristran then cries out for Ysolt and then he dies. Ysolt arrives and she is shocked and saddened by the news. She says, “It is against reason for me to live longer. You die for my love, and I, love, die of grief, for I could not come in time to heal you and your wound” (136). The author focuses on the grief of death--celebrating the fact that the cause of death was their separation. Their physical separation demonstrates and makes concrete the idea that true love has a barrier that cannot be crossed. The reader, especially today, would not pick up that theme without the clear example of their separation, which allows the story to make sense of why there was no love in Tristran

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