Retribution in Beowulf

Beowulf is an epic poem that, above all, gives us a vision of a time long ago; a time when the most important traits to have were courage and integrity. The only thing that could give such fame to somebody was heroic deeds and family lineage. Beowulf, as the example of pagan heroes, exhibited his desire to accumulate fame and fortune; the only way to do so was to avenge the death of others. This theme of retribution that is present throughout the whole poem seems to enrich the identities of its characters. 

In Beowulf, revenge is represented with both an honest and rhetorical motives. Payback of monsters ' offenses is Beowulf 's path to the top: worldwide fame, infinite wealth, and unanimous respect. Grendel 's violence is less by revenge than it is total frustration with his situation. Other characters ' actions are fueled by wanting to settle scores. Aeschere was killed by Grendel 's mother only because Beowulf killed Grendel. The last monster that is faced by the Hero of the Geats only wants to guard his heap of treasure. When his fortune is raided, revenge is the dragon 's only way to react. A common impression in Beowulf is revenge; however some characters feel a need for retribution and try to find it until they die.

The most pure form of revenge is exhibited by Grendel 's mother compared to the rest of Beowulf 's enemies. Grendel 's mother is never mentioned or seen until Beowulf kills Grendel. "... It became clear / obvious to everyone... that an avenger lurked and was still alive / grimly biding time" (1255-1258). Aeschere was murdered by Grendel 's mother due to Beowulf killing Grendel. "But now his mother had sallied forth on a savage journey / grief-racked and ravenous, desperate for revenge" (1276-1278). Her demise is caused by her burning desire to avenge the death of her son. Beowulf 's desire to reap the benefits of fame and respect overpowers all of the raw emotion and anger that Grendel 's mother is going through. She is the perfect example of how the blindness of revenge can lead to a person 's demise.

Beowulf exhibits far more complex shades of revenge than the Grendel 's mother did. Beowulf wanted to become the greatest warrior of the land though, when all is said and done. In those times, the only way to become renowned like he wanted was through incredible acts of courage. Beowulf uses these acts with a façade of seeking revenge; he truly wants to be a hero so he goes to Heorot to help the Danes by saving them from Grendel 's attacks. His reward should just be pride by doing a good deed and helping people but it isn 't. Beowulf is rewarded with luxurious and expensive gifts. "Then Halfdane 's son presented Beowulf / with a gold standard as a victory gift, / an embroidered banner; also breast-mail / and a helmet; and a sword carried high... It was hardly a shame to be showered with such gifts / in front of the hall-troops. There haven 't been many moments... when men exchanged four such treasures at so friendly a sitting" (Beowulf, 1019-1028). Beowulf 's desires of wealth, fame, and respect are realized after killing Grendel under his supposed revenge. The pattern continues after Grendel 's mother retaliates when she learns her son is killed. The personal aspiration of revenge is hidden by Beowulf as he engages Grendel 's mother. After killing Grendel 's mother, Beowulf is compensated with riches, rewards, and more importantly even more of an extensive reputation as a hero and warrior. Above all, becoming the "Hero" is what Beowulf 's true goal is, and he uses revenge as an effective form of expression in that quest. 

Grendel is an outcast, even among monsters, and he 's tired of Hrothgar 's men not being able to sympathize with this situation he 's in so attacks Heorot and Hrothgar 's men because of it. He wants revenge for the hand he 's been dealt; he‘s the h, monstrous descendant of Cain, while the Danes go through their existence "insensible to pain / and human sorrow" (119-120). Grendel, unlike the other monsters in the poem, surprisingly exhibits human-like intricacy of feelings. The dragon just acts out of pure and simple vengeance, while Grendel attacks out of his insecurity and jealous nature. "So Grendel waged his lonely war, / inflicting constant cruelties on the people, / atrocious hurt... he was the Lord 's outcast" (165-166; 169). 

The final and most absolute act of revenge in Beowulf comes from the dragon, also the last monster. The dragon was forced into a rage of destruction when he learned Beowulf 's men had been raiding his treasure collections. The dragon really only wanted defend his treasure, and when he couldn 't do that, violence was his natural reaction of retribution. Beowulf figures it 's time for him to face the dragon when he learns that "his own home, / had been burned to a cinder" (2325-2326).

The final requirement of the Heroic Code, Beowulf 's actions are in the hands of fate, in his fight with the dragon. Beowulf is attempting to complete or fulfill his destiny, if you will, by fighting the dragon. The dragon, however, is acting out of revenge for what Beowulf and his men did to his treasures. "The veteran king sat down on the cliff-top... he was sad at heart, / unsettled yet ready, sensing his death. / His fate hovered near, unknowable but certain" (2416-2421). The dragon 's act of vengeance is the pivotal point where Beowulf meets his demise and his destiny. 

Clearly, revenge is a theme that filters through in nearly every aspect of Beowulf. Revenge is used as a source for violence, and a cover-up for other selfish motives. Grendel, who could easily look like he 's vengeful, is really just jealous and resents the people who are happier than he is. Grendel 's mother acts out of revenge because her son was killed. The dragon also acts out of a sense of vengeance, but its actions are ultimately used to seal Beowulf 's fate. While he tries to disguise his true intentions with a charade of vengeance, Beowulf himself describes best the sense of revenge in the epic. "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." (1384-1389)

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