The Struggle of the Dark Ages

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Beowolf essay “The Struggle of the Dark Ages” (GOOD v. EVIL) Through Seamus Heaney’s epoch poem Beowulf, we can see what was important in the culture of the 5th/ 6th centuries. We see how Kings and Queens treat their subjects. Some treat them with generosity and honor; others scorn them and punish the innocent. Throughout the culture there are also good and bad warriors. The good warriors show loyalty to their “ring-givers” and will often stand by their side in the face of battle. However, others show their fear. All in all, loyalty, honor, and generosity are what sets everyone apart from evil and are most important in the culture of Beowulf. You will see these traits in a good King as well. A good King would be someone who gives his thanes treasure for their efforts in battle. For example, Hygelac “ordered a gold-chased heirloom of Hrethel” to be given to Beowulf (149). This shows that honor and respect are a crucial part in the culture. The process of presenting gifts upon arrival, or after a battle, is a great sign of respect. The gifts are a way of telling each other how much they appreciate what the other has done for them. King’s use their authority in the culture to rule with honor and respect. They serve their subjects, as their subjects serve them. A good King should also have a good Queen by his side. Hygelac’s Queen is a good example. She was said to be young and beautiful. Not only that, but she was “thoughtful and her manners sure” (133). Hrothgar’s Queen, Wealhtheow, is another example. She was referred to as a “peace-pledge among nations”; this meaning she was a part of an arranged marriage. Wealhtheow treated her subjects with kindness and “graciously saluted the men in the hall” (41-43). These quotes show not only the roles of the women in the culture, but also how a good Queen should react with her subjects. Both Queens respected their

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