2.3.7 Thematic Analysis in Beowulf
In the tale of Beowulf, one of the main themes that comes forward is familial duty. This sense of duty is passed down from one generation to the next, and the expectation is that whatever is needed will be done. Even though Beowulf is not related to Hrothgar or his people, the bond that is established between the King and Ecgtheow, Beowulf's father, puts Beowulf in the position of service to Hrothgar in his time of need as he deals with Grendel. That same sense of duty is what compels Grendel's mother to seek revenge for the death of her son, which ultimately leads to her death.
Beowulf is all about the connections between different generations of Danes. Starting with Scyld, then Beowulf, then Healfdene, then Hrothgar, the line of kings also shows the importance of duty within the family. What makes Beowulf come to Hrothgar's aid, even though he is not of the same lineage, is the connection between Hrothgar and his father:
HROTHGAR spake, the Scyldings’-helmet:—
“For fight defensive, Friend my Beowulf,
to succor and save, thou hast sought us here.
Thy father’s combat a feud enkindled
when Heatholaf with hand he slew
among the Wylfings; ...
Fleeing, he sought our South-Dane folk,...
Straightway the feud with fee I settled,
to the Wylfings sent, o’er watery ridges,
treasures olden: oaths he swore me. (VII, 1-17)
This section shows that Hrothgar's monetary aid to Ecgtheow in his time of need now obligated everyone in his line, not just him, to serve Hrothgar when he needed aid. Grendel's mother also is compelled by duty to avenge the murder of her son. She, being "gloomy and grim, would go that quest/of sorrow, the death of her son to avenge" (XIX, 27-28). It can also be understood that the future battle between Beowulf and Grendel's mother is even more dramatic because both were fighting with purpose, making for an even match, as described in the text:
Flung then the fierce...