The Role of Revenge in Beowulf

Beowulf was a warrior who lived by the pagan honor code that consisted of bravery, loyalty, revenge and fame. Revenge is one of the reoccurring themes in Beowulf. In Beowulf, Grendel the mighty monster attacks Heorot, the kingdom of Hrothgar (Trans. Heaney, 2000). Grendel’s attack was a result of his banishment from Heorot because of his lineage. Grendel’s actions were an act of revenge for his unjust treatment by the thanes of Hrothgar. He chose to attack Heorot in particular because that is where the thanes held their celebrations; those celebrations were a symbol of what Grendel was denied as the result of being exiled.   According to Professor Darling, Beowulf sets off on a mission to help Hrothgar, King of Heorot, because Hrothgar previously hid Beowulf’s father, Ecgtheow, from his enemies (personal communication, September 10, 2012).
Beowulf fought Grendel to avenge Hrothgar’s people as well as to bring fame to Hygelac and himself. Beowulf declared that he would not use a sword or shield to prove his loyalty and bravery to Hygelac and to add to his own fame. Beowulf fatally wounded Grendel by dismembering Grendel’s arm from his torso. He then put Grendel’s arm on display as a trophy of his victory. When Grendel’s mother finds her son dying from the wounds inflicted by Beowulf, she becomes consumed with seeking revenge. Heaney explains Grendel’s journey as a   “savage journey, grief-racked and ravenous, desperate for revenge”   (Heaney, 2000, Lines 1276-1278). Like Beowulf and Grendel, Grendel’s mother was driven by revenge to attack Heorot.
      During Grendel’s mother’s attack, she killed Aeschere and took his body hostage as well as reclaiming her son’s arm to symbolize the justice she was seeking. Heaney described Aeschere as Hrothgar’s right-hand man (2000). Hrothgar complained to Beowulf about Grendel’s mother’s actions and the loss of such an important advisor. In response to Hrothgar’s complaints, Beowulf says, “Wise sir, do not grieve. It is always...