Funeral Rituals In Beowulf

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Funeral rituals have always been an important part of society and many cultures highly value the notion of showing respect for the dead. This is very apparent in both The Iliad by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles, and Beowulf, translated by Burton Raffel, as shown in the burials of their characters Patroclus and Beowulf. In The Iliad, the death of Achilles’ dear friend Patroclus results in an extravagant setup of funeral games meant to celebrate the life of a fallen hero. Similarly, the death of Beowulf prompts Wiglaf to construct an elaborate burial honoring Beowulf’s life. Although Achilles and Wiglaf respond differently to the death of their friend, the burials themselves and what they represent are quite alike. In Robert Fagle’s translation…show more content…
He “spurned them, groaning,/ I beg you.../ stop pressing me to glut myself with food and drink,/ now such painful grief has come and struck my heart!” (Fagles 19, 360-3). Achilles’ refusal to consume any normal food, along with the unusual sacrifice of “four massive stallions .../ nine dogs at table.../...and then a dozen brave sons/ of the proud Trojans he hacked to pieces with his bronze…” (23, 197-201) showed just how detached he had become from everyone and everything else. Spurred by blind rage, Achilles decides to participate in the Trojan War, to avenge his closest companion. At this point, he makes it his personal mission to kill Hector, knowing that his decision would result in the fulfillment of the prophecy. However, after killing Hector in battle, Achilles finally hosts a proper burial for Patroclus . The act of burying Patroclus is symbolic as it resembles peace in the afterlife. Because this is a society so closely intertwined with…show more content…
Beowulf’s death allows Wiglaf to take on the highest position of power—kingship. However, this new responsibility may have been more of a burden than a blessing for Wiglaf since the future is very bleak for the Geats. The Geats have long avoided conflict from their enemies through Beowulf’s protection, but in the wake of their fallen leader’s death, Wiglaf knows that invasion is inevitable. There is no longer anything preventing an attack on the old Germanic tribe from their rivaling Swedish neighbors. Although Wiglaf senses this impending doom on his nation, he first takes time to fulfill Beowulf’s dying wish. Using his new authoritative position, Wiglaf commands the people of Geats to help organize Beowulf’s funeral. Beowulf’s funeral was a simple spectacle compared to that of Patroclus’; It included “A huge heap of wood...,/ Hung around with helmets,.../ Shields, and shining mail shirts, all/ As Beowulf had asked.” (Raffel 3137-40). However, Beowulf’s body still burned high and was regarded as “that greatest/ Of funeral fires;” (Raffel 3143-44). The burial of Beowulf carried the utmost respect for the great king. Not only was there a great cremation honoring his body, but a tower was also built in his name. Beowulf’s tower was “strong and tall, so sailors/ Could find it from far and wide;” (Raffel 3156-7). The height of the tower allowed people

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