Beowulf is a medieval English epic poem about the childhood of a young Geatish warrior. This warrior aided Hrothgar, King of the Danes, whose kingdom was being attacked by Grendel the monster. Beowulf beats Grendel in the mead hall of Hrothgar, Heorot, due to his courage and epic strength. Beowulf even kills the monster’s vengeful mother in her underwater den. As a result of these events, Beowulf’s reputation spread like wildfire as he returned home to the Geatland laden with a treasure for his king, Hygelac. Later on, Beowulf became the Geasts’king where, for over 50 years, he ruled peacefully. However, a dragon began to pose a threat to the Geatland prompting Beowulf together with his Wiglaf, his servant, to set off to defeat it. In spite of succeeding in killing the dragon, Beowulf dies in the process.
“Good Places” Vs. “Bad Places” In the Text
There are several, good and bad places in the text. The first is when Danes massacre by Grendel extends beyond his bloody hunger. In this text, Grendel is represented as the physical embodiment of evil as well as the enemy of mankind. In other words, he symbolizes humanity gone wrong. Grendel fails to abide by the codes of a feudal society which includes community, loyalty, honor, and allegiance, which are the core civilization values amongst the Danes.
“…the monster relished his savage war/ On the Danes, keeping the bloody feud/ Alive, seeking no peace, offering/ No truce, accepting no settlement, no price/ In gold or land, and paying the living/ For one crime only with another…” (Heaney 28).
Another good vs. bad place in the text is the poet’s discussion about the inability of Grendel to escape from death and the eternal cycle of life. The composer also articulates that this scenario befits the human beings as well. Where he says that the cold bed of death is to the unbroken sleep which follows the feats of life (Heaney 56). These excerpts try to make the addressee understand that life’s cycle of dark and light recurs; thus sleeping occurs during darkness whereas feasting takes place in the night.
“All beings here on God’s earth… It is written that we go, taking our bodies/ From death’s cold bed to unbroken sleep/ That follows life’s feast” (Heaney 54-55).
What Seems To Be Their Relationship; Proximity, Borders, and Respective Characteristics
The contrast between the good and bad is strongly brought out throughout the narrative. The good vs. the bad excerpts are seemingly a representation of darkness and Light are closely associated all through the poem. The proximity and border between these two aspects serve the purpose of symbolizing the forces of evil and good, hell and heaven. This links up the respective characteristics whereby the human civilization which comes about in the custom of heroic warriors is related with light. For instance, we find in the poem that the halls are illuminated with treasure and rejoicing. On the other hand, the evil is represented Grendel whose lair is gray and dark which confers well with what we are told that he only hunts in darkness, at night.
In summary, the good v bad places in the poem have a strong relationship which seems to bring out clearly both good and evil deliberately. All good is embodied by Beowulf himself and is at many times expressed by way of his super-human capabilities. O the other hand, all evil is embodied by the monsters including the dragon, Grendel, and his mother. This is drawn by the sharp contrast between good and bad places in this piece of literal work.
What Does this Suggest About the Poet’s Idea Of The Ability Of Human Beings to Control Their Environment?
This suggests that the author had a strong urge of exploring the intersection of human society and nature within the Eco-critical sphere by building upon his arguments. He seems to suggest that nature is part and parcel of the humankind day to day activities especially in dissecting the roles they play. For instance, a greater part of the synthesis of water and earth by the author brought out the roles that Grendel along with his mother played throughout the poem, particularly due to their occupancy of a vague boundary that crosses both nature and humanity. More so, we find that human beings, in the poem, have control over the fire where they could use it to sail through the harshness of nature, but on the other hand, it could get out of control by being a destructive force. We find that water acts as a boundary marker between societies. In other words, the author was only making efforts to show how the Anglo-Saxon society, and to be specific the warrior societies interacted with nature.
Heaney, Seamus. “Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. 1st bilingual ed.” New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (2000).Print.