In the epic poem Beowulf, the Beowulf Poet reveals how loyalty plays an important role in Anglo-Saxon society. In their culture loyalty was earned, being loyal is the most important part of being a good warrior. The poem demonstrates the high value placed on reputation through character actions, character speeches, and plot events.
The Beowulf Poet uses character speeches and interactions to capture the importance of public reputation to Anglo-Saxon audiences. In this poem Beowulf is portrayed as a loyal king of the Danes, there are many examples like: We belong by birth to the Great people and owe allegiance to Lord Hygelac. The warriors worked to defend Their lord’s life, laying about them As best they could with their ancestral blades.In Beowulf’s arrival and battle with Grendel he was protected. He was loyal to his people and his people were loyal to him.
All of Beowulf’s Band had jumped from their beds, ancestral Swords raised and ready, determined To protect their prince if they could.They were protecting Beowulf from Grendel, both examples from the poem show that introducing oneself through loyalty mattered a great deal to the Anglo-Saxon people.
Before going off to battle, he worries not about what may happen to him ands asks that his loyal men be taken care of if he doesn’t make it back. As well, he asks that Hrothgar take care of his men, requesting that he “ be guardian of my young retainers, my companions, if battle should take me.”(Howe, pg.26) In Beowulf’s journey to and from the mere and his battle with Grendel’s mother he then again shows his loyalty by:
The Danes gave up, left the lake and went home, Hrothgar with them. The Geats stayed, sat sadly, watching imagining the saw their lord but not believing they would ever see him again. BR 16. He shows his loyalty once again when he headed off to do battle with her.
When Grendel’s mother attacks the hall in revenge for her son’s death. Beowulf makes it known that he will fight the monster. He then makes out what amounts to his last will and testament. He asks that his men, who have been loyal and brave be taken care of if he is killed. He says “ be guardian of my young retainers, my companions, if battle should take me”. As well, he asks that Hrothgar take care of his men. Beowulf proves to his people that he is loyal to them by going into battle by himself and making sure that if he were to die during this battle that is family and friends will be taken care of in his absence.
When Beowulf is ruled king after Hygelac is killed he prepares himself for his last battle. In his final test, the burden of loyalty will rest on other, younger shoulders. Entering this battle beowulf put his trust in retainers who have vowed to fight to the death for him, and he decides to bring them with him just in case.
My hands calm: I need no hotWords. Wait for me close by, my friends.We shall see, soon, who will survive Pg. 19 Preparing for his last battle, with the fiery dragon, Beowulf puts his trust in 11 of his finest men, retainers who have vowed to fight to the death for him. The loyalty Wiglaf had for beowulf was unmatched and he believed in beowulf while everybody “Men at arms, remain here on the barrow, safe in your armour, to see which one of us is better in the end at bearing wounds in a deadly fray. This fight is not yours, nor is it up to any man except me to measure his strength against the monster or to prove his worth. I shall win the gold by courage, or else mortal kombat, doom of battle, will bear you\’re lord away.”
Only Wiglaf, an inexperienced thane who has great respect for his king, remains loyal. He tries to gain help from the others but sadly they suddenly backed out. As he dies, Beowulf passes the kingdom on to the brave and loyal Wiglaf.
Through character actions, character speeches, and plot events in Beowulf, the Beowulf Poet captures the Anglo-Saxon people’s belief that loyalty played an important role in their society. In this poem it shows that Beowulf was not afraid nor in denial about going to battle and protecting his people. He was never afraid to die if he was dying trying to protect the people he loves.