Beowulf Essay: The Power of Wyrd
Members of the Anglo-Saxon warrior society subscribed to an ethos that
acknowledged that their lives were governed by wyrd, powerful forces outside their control. In the passage from Beowulf, the poet’s interest in Beowulf’s impending death and man’s needful submission to fate are evident in the speciﬁc language he uses to describe Beowulf’s encounter with the dragon.
Throughout the passage from the poem Beowulf, the author uses the external
force, wyrd, to rudder the warrior Beowulf’s imminent fate. The poet’s choice of diction illustrates that Beowulf is destined to be conquered by the dragon because of wyrd’s power: “I shall ﬁght like that/for as long as I live, as long as this sword/shall last” (2498-99). This claim spoken by Beowulf foreshadows his inevitable death and the sword’s unlikely failure in the later lines of the poem. The poet depicts how Beowulf knows that trying to conquer the dragon is a dangerous task, and that even ﬁghting to the best of his strengths may not spare his life. Beowulf is aware that “what occurs on the wall/between the two of us will turn out as fate” (2525-26) meaning that his strength and power does not compromise the power wyrd. He understands the transience of his life and knows that its outcome is not up to him to be determined. The author demonstrates that Beowulf is doomed to die by use of pass tense language that proposes Beowulf’s life is coming to an end: “Beowulf spoke, made a formal boast/for the last time” (2510-11). This sentence implies that the warrior is approaching his demise and must speak his last words. However, although Beowulf submits the
outcome of his ﬁnal battle to fate, the poet explains that “For the son of Ecgtheow, it was no easy thing/to have to give ground . . .” (2587-88), Beowulf does not want to give up against the dragon, he merely understands that fate will decide what is meant to happen.
Beowulf is aware that the...
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