Section Five: Beowulf Returns to Geatland

Beowulf and his warriors return to Geatland.  As in other parts of the poem, this section is interrupted by a description of another famous ruler.  Like the other digressions in the poem, this story has a purpose, as the actions described will serve as a contrast to how Beowulf’s aunt and uncle will behave when he returns to Geatland.  Therefore, while these asides may seem distracting to a modern audience, as if they fail to advance the story, they were an important literary device that served as foreshadowing and as a means of lesson transmittal.

This time, the poet discusses Queen Hygd, contrasting her with the evil Queen Modthrytho.  This introduction prepares the reader for Beowulf’s interaction with King Hygelac and Queen Hygd.  Like Queen Wealhtheow, Queen Hygd shows Beowulf and the other Geats tremendous hospitality, which would have been part of the code of comitatus.  Though women were not warriors and did not play prominent roles, their participation in the code was essential for its continued survival.  Queen Modthryth is different from both Wealhtheow and Hygd.  She does not display hospitality and kindness, but instead abuses her power.  While she is beautiful like Wealhtheow and Hygd, she uses her beauty offensively, having men executed for looking into her eyes.  To this point, the reader has only been introduced to queens who comply with the expectations of a queen under the heroic code, so that the contrast between Modthryth and Hygd makes Hygd’s gentle behavior seem even more appropriate. 

While Beowulf has been in Denmark, there have been political developments in Geatland.  Among those developments is that Hrothgar has been trying to make peace with the Heathobards.  He hopes that a marriage between his daughter, Freawaru, and Ingeld of the Heathobards will end the feud between them.  Beowulf does not believe that the Hygelac’s plan will be successful.  Historically, the audience would have been aware of the story of the marriage...

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Essays About Beowulf