Beowulf

Beowulf’s treatment of Grendel’s mother is to disconcert the audience. College

When one considers the criticism of Beowulf, from the beginnings to more recent writings the early lack of interest in Grendel’s mother is very apparent. In 1936 J. R. R. Tolkien dismissed her as a secondary figure to her son. Major feminist criticism also seemed to avoid her until the 1980s when Jane Chance focused on the female monster, discussing the structural unity of Beowulf. Though the episode concerning Grendel’s mother is shorter than that of her son, the issues that the poet raises in these lines seems infinitely more complicated and encompassing than the obvious sense of good and evil communicated in the struggle between Beowulf and Grendel.  

Grendel, the blood thirsty, murderous progeny of Cain commits crimes unprovoked and indiscriminately. He is undeniably evil, and the poet certainly goes to great lengths to describe him as a grotesque and fearsome being. Grendel is the ‘feond on helle’ (Beowulf 101), ‘grimma’ (102) and ‘wonsaeli’ (105). The poet is never at a loss for new words to describe Grendel’s wickedness and his ugly visage. The situation is straightforward; the beast is evil and deserves to die.   Murder must be avenged, swiftly...

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