The hart in Germanic society was a symbol of regality and purity.

Grendel, associated with Cain the “primordial kinslayer,” represents social disunity

Despite boasting in their cups the hollowness of heroic Scylding society based on a free beot [pledge] is soon apparent, and the comitatus dwindles…

And as Hrothgar’s men are either unwilling or unable to protect Heorot, so the Geats are unable to stand up to the dragon with Beowulf later on.

Beowulf’s death has epic implications: it marks the end of a way of life, the destruction of a civilization. The death of Hector resulted in the fall of Troy. Arthur’s death meant the end of the Round Table. Beowulf’s death will bring with it the demise of the kingdom of the Geats…

In classical tragedy the hero struggles against the fate which some personal tragic flaw has brought about. In this kind of epic literature, however, evil is usually confined to agents external to the hero: Arthur’s Mordred or Beowulf’s monsters. The epic hero goes willingly to his fate, even though the awful consequences of his choice must be as clear to himself as to anyone else. Beowulf dismisses his comitatus, but continues to act in light of the ethical requirements of that group. He believes for an instant–the instant of beot–that he may overcome the dragon, that he may preserve the way of life they all know. The hero defies his fate, but in a spirit of resignation: fate will go always as it must…His decision may seem to be brought about by pride but, unlike the classical hubris, it is external and clear, not what he but society expects.

Michael Swanton, 1978

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