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Comparing And Contrasting The Use Of Fealty In Beowulf By Seamus Heaney And The Anglo Saxon Poem Dream Of The Rood

663 words - 3 pages

Fealty is one of the greatly-recognized values of the Anglo-Saxon world. Often defined as a type of loyalty or allegiance, fealty plays a more engaging and active role in Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf than in the Anglo-Saxon poem “The Dream of the Rood” because of the way it causes action to be taken. Understanding the use of this Anglo-Saxon value can reveal its importance in Anglo-Saxon life and literature.In Beowulf, the main character Beowulf uses fealty to empower him to perform heroic deeds. This is shown through the actions that he makes: upon hearing of the attacks by Grendel, Beowulf rushes to the aid of Hrothgar, a friend of his father's. Beowulf's father, Ecgtheow, previously killed Heatholaf, a member of the Wulfing tribe. According to Anglo-Saxon terminology and law, a debt or wergild must be paid to the relatives of the victim. Unable to pay this “manprice” (, Ecgtheow fled to avoid war. Hrothgar “healed the feud by paying” (Line 470) this debt which caused Beowulf's father to swear fealty to Hrothgar. It is this fealty that his father made that encourages Beowulf to “follow up on an old friendship” (Line 376) and assist Hrothgar by defeating Grendel. Another example where Beowulf uses fealty to act heroic is the decision to fight the dragon. Although this occurs in the older phase of Beowulf's life, his loyalty or fealty to the Geats “as king of the people” (Line 2513) obliges him to defend them, believing that it’s his duty. Conclusively, the utilization of fealty by Beowulf results in actions being carried out.The Anglo-Saxon value of fealty is also used by other characters in Beowulf to execute intrepid actions. The greatest example of this is the aid shown to Beowulf by Wiglaf during the battle against the dragon. During this battle, Beowulf’s sword fails him and he’s in need of assistance from the eleven comrades personally chosen for the encounter. However, excluding Wiglaf, “that hand-picked troop broke...

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