British Literature I
30 October 2014
Suppression of Emotions in Beowulf The epic poem
is didactic, which means it has many lessons that can be learned from it. One specific lesson would be the suppression of emotions and its benefits. AngloSaxon belief says that one must suppress their emotions. They more valued avenging those whom have been lost than to mourn them. Mourning was seen as an indulgence. In the story of
, it is better to suppress emotions and do something productive than to sit and mourn.
Suppression of emotion is shown first when King Hrothgar’s friend Aeschere was devoured by the great shebeast, Grendel’s Mother. The monster’s son had been attacking for twelve years, but when such a close friend was murdered by the demon, Hrothgar immediately began to mourn for his loss. Beowulf told him “It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.” (line 13841385). Though the idea sounds cold, it is a wiser thing to do.
To sit and cry would not bring Aeschere back, and King Hrothgar knew that. Beowulf thought it was better to avenge the man, and fought Grendel that night and won.
The story of
also shows the contrary, what would happen if one were to not follow the lesson. Beowulf told the story of King Hrethel, whose son was accidently killed by a brother. Hrethel’s first instinct was to avenge, but he could not put the deathprice on the killer because the killer was his own son. With nothing to hold his emotions, he succumbed to
mourning and soon died. “Heartsore, wearied, he turned away from life’s joys, chose God’s light and departed, leaving buildings and lands to his sons, as a man of substance will.” (line 268271)
If the King had been able to avenge his eldest son, he may have received closure and been able to have lived longer.
Though it is taught to suppress emotions, man is still man and will mourn at least a small amount for a loss, but this does not mean one cannot still do a favor for the deceased. Beowulf’s final wishes are for a barrow to be built and named after him. Wiglaf made sure his wishes were carried out. In a way, this is Wiglaf’s form of ‘avenging’ Beowulf, for his killer was already destroyed. Wiglaf also shows an example of suppressing emotions by staying