Loyalty Quotes in Beowulf: Examples & Analysis Video

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  • 0:00 The Medieval Tale & Loyalty
  • 0:59 Loyalty & Honor
  • 1:58 Loyalty & Family
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.

Beowulf is loyal to his family honor, his homeland, his king, and his men, making loyalty a powerful motivating force for this man who puts others' needs before his own. The concept of loyalty runs throughout 'Beowulf' and is vital to the man and to the poem.

The Medieval Tale & Loyalty

In the medieval tale, the concept of loyalty is vitally important to the warrior's code of honor. In Beowulf, an epic poem written by the unknown Beowulf poet, we see this clearly. Loyalty guides each and every step Beowulf takes, from his first to his last.

When we first meet Beowulf we quickly learn that he has arrived at the Danish kingdom of Hrothgar because of loyalty and to help rid them of a monster named Grendel. He has come to Hrothgar to offer his help because once Hrothgar offered lifesaving help to his father. It is loyalty and gratitude that brings Beowulf to the Danish court to lend a hand. Hrothgar welcomes Beowulf, saying, 'Beowulf, you've come to us in friendship, and because of the reception your father found at court.' Because of Hrothgar's intervention, there was peace between the Geats and the Danes, thus guaranteeing the loyalty of Beowulf's family.

Loyalty & Honor

Beowulf helps us see more clearly his sense of loyalty when he speaks to Wealhtheow, Hrothgar's queen, about his reasons for coming to the court. 'I had a fixed purpose when I put to sea. As I sat in the boat with my band of men, I meant to perform to the uttermost what your people wanted or perish in the attempt, in the fiend's clutches. And I shall fulfill that purpose, prove myself with a proud deed or meet my death here in the mead-hall.' Beowulf makes it clear that his loyalty is with the king and the people and he is willing to die in the process of trying to save them.

When Beowulf gets ready to leave Hrothgar, he makes it clear that he will remain forever loyal and ready to fight if the need arises. Hrothgar sings the praises of Beowulf. '. . .If your lord, Hrethel's son, is slain by a spear, or falls sick and dies. . . I say that the Geats could do no better, find no man better suited to be king, keeper of warriors and their treasure, than you. . . Beloved Beowulf.'

Loyalty & Family

Beowulf makes it back to Geatland where he once again demonstrates his loyalty; this time to his uncle Hygelac. Hygelac's custom is to lavish treasures on those who demonstrate their loyalty during battle, and Beowulf deserves such praise. He gave him 'a sword covered with gold. He also honors the young warrior with 'lands, seven thousand hides, a hall, and gift-throne.' As a result, Hygelac has Beowulf's undying loyalty. 'The treasures that Hygelac lavished on me I paid for when I fought, as fortune allowed me, with my glittering sword. He gave me land and the security land brings, so he had no call to go looking for some lesser champion.'

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