What do good citizens do in Beowulf and the Odyssey? How should the average person behave?
Good citizens should respect the established laws of the land and to be loyal to their friends. Having and demonstrating virtues that glue the society together is the duty of the citizens irrespective of their background or social class. In both Beowulf and the Odyssey, there are myriads of different values that should be observed, but almost in all societies, there are some values that are common among all the citizens do all societies. In both Beowulf and Odyssey, both the antagonists making these values the common denominator in these societies inherently exhibit these two values. Beowulf and Odysseys have demonstrated that good citizens should be loyal to the society, and secondly faithfulness to the government and the fellow citizens.
Citizens must demonstrate loyalty and faithfulness
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Beowulf was a muscular man, strong and skilled at the fight but did not have the mental capacity of cleverness, on the other hand, Odysseus was not muscular or skilled at a fight, but as clever and could use his tricks to overcome burden. While their strength is not the subjects matter, in this case, these two were dedicated to their cause and were the first people to have demonstrated their loyalty to the society, their relatives, and their king. For example, Beowulf knew too well that Grendel’s mother and Grendel threatened his village. Therefore, to protect his village, he had to us both his mental and physical strength to protect the village.
Loyalty in Odyssey can be seen in many characters throughout the book. For example, Reichl (1116-1118) reports that Penelope, Odysseus wife was faithful to him for all those time that Odysseus was away on an errand. She was not tempted to sleep around knowing too well that it was the requirement of the Greek citizens to be loyal and faithful in their marriages irrespective of the nature of the relationship with the husband. She was still young, adventurous, and agile, but she kept her faith hoping that despite his long absence on the dangerous journey, Odysseus was still alive and would come back to her. On the other hand, Eumios may have been a swineherd, but he was faithful to his friend Odysseus. He helped Odysseus overcome the suitors a feat that Odysseus would not have achieved had Eumaios not been a loyal friend who devolved all the secrets to him. Additionally, Philoitois was also an oxherd who was very loyal to his friend Odysseus. For example, on many occasions, he went against expectations to help Odysseus beat the other suitors. There are many occasion that Odysseus tested Eumaios, Philoitois, and the servants to determine if they were faithful
Altruism and selflessness
In booth Odyssey and Beowulf, altruism and selflessness are demonstrated. This is a strong attribute for the citizens irrespective of their size and capability. On Beowulf, Beowulf the protagonist defeated Grendel and the when the son finally came of age, and Beowulf had to fight him. Even in his old age, he had to defend his village selflessly. The hiatus during Grendel’s mother’s absence, when Grendel was being born, it became apparent that despite the long break, the people of the village were still threatened by the monsters and the bad blood was never ending (Schipper 423-426).
On the other hand, in his dangerous journey outlined in the Odyssey, it became apparent that Odysseus was loyal to his relatives and his people. Odysseus used his mental wit to outsmart the monsters. Odysseus protected his relatives by risking his life to go and steal food from polyp emus in Cyclops. The crew demanded food, and he did not care whether he was putting his life at risk for the sake of the crew. Everyone knew what kind of a monster Polyphemus was and nobody dared to go into his home. Considering the fact, that Odysseus was only witty and not strong enough the fight Polyphemus, he was destined to fail and be eaten by Polyphemus, but his selflessness and altruism could not allow him to sit and stare as his crew died of hunger (Reichl 1116-1118).
Respect for the tradition and laws
Odysseus wanted to marry Penelope therefore despite his high position in the village, he never thought of himself as above the law. The laws of the land required that every suitor had to partake some activities in the society with the hope that he would win Penelope’s hand in marriage. He participated in the arrow bowing, throwing, wrestling, and boxing. He participated in the entire tests fort the suitors and managed to excel in the competition for the suitors. It is also important to note that even Beowulf was also successful in his fight for the leadership position. Beowulf was very loyal to the laws of the land and never considered himself above the laws or rules of his village despite being the hero. He never looked down upon the leadership or the established laws of the land. In both cases, these citizens were loyal to their leaders and established dictates of the laws (Richardson 207-214).
Honesty and hospitality are revered
As good citizens, hospitality is an immigrant virtue that everyone should exhibit. This is seen in both Odyssey and Beowulf. For example when Beowulf went to Heorot, the coastguard who received him and led him to Heorot where he was given a warm reception and entertained met him. Even though he was slightly insulted by Unferth, his entertainment continued, and everybody went to bed peacefully. The warm reception despite being unknown in Heorot indicates that the citizens including the coastguard and the entertainers have a duty to demonstrate hospitality. On the other hand, in the Odyssey, when Odysseus moved to Ogygia and was detailed by Calypso, he left Ogygia using his raft but when his raft was damaged, he was met by Ino who provided him with food, another raft to replace his and directed him to the palace of Alcinous (Schipper 423-426). Despite the little problem, he encountered wit Nausicaa and his maidens along the shore; the reception at the king’s palace was warm. He had a chance to enjoy games, entertainment, food, and other benefits that even the little insult from Euryalus could not affect.
Citizens have a duty to the state and to their fellow citizens. To the state, they have to obey the rules and laws the human control behaviors. These laws are developed to protect the citizens from each other and from destroying themselves. On the other hand, to the fellow citizen, they have to establish the decorum associated with the civilized human being. This means that the citizen should portray maturity, and virtues that are valued in the society. Virtues like loyalty to the state and their fellow friends, selflessness in protecting the rights and interest of the fellow citizens as well as hospitality when dealing with new people. It is clear that in both Beowulf and other Odyssey, the characters were modeled to fit in this societal expectation including loyalty to friendship, obedience to laws of the land hospitality to neighbors. Readers can easily understand that even though people may. Apart from being obedient to the government, respecting authority, the citizens should ensure that virtues such as honesty, faithfulness as well as caring. The citizen;s child cares for their fellow citizens and prepares to be accountable for the lives of their friends. Protecting friends and being loyal to them even in their absence is a responsibility that each citizen must be willing to undertake. Finally, as the citizen, there is a need for people to protect the tradition of the land whether it is the marriage tradition, feasting, storytelling, or even social ceremonies. The tradition of the land was established to help unite the people and it is the duty of the average citizens to rise to the occasion as and when needed.
Reichl, Karl. “Traditional Oral Epic: The “Odyssey,” “Beowulf,” And The Serbo-Croatian Return Song. John Miles Foley”. Speculum 68.4 (1993): 1116-1118. Web.
Richardson, Peter. “The Cultural World In Beowulf. John M. Hillthinking About Beowulf. James W. Earl”. Modern Philology 94.2 (1996): 207-214. Web.
Schipper, Bill. “All Talk: Robert Zemeckis’S Beowulf, Wealtheow, And Grendel’S Mother”. Literature Compass 8.7 (2011): 423-426. Web.