Applying Critical Theory to Grendel

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Applying Critical Theory to Grendel

Author: John Forbes


In chapter seven, Grendel is in the midst of his second year of raids on the Danes. Grendel has destroyed King Hrothgar’s morale and kingdom. Not only must Hrothgar worry about Grendel now but he must also show concern towards warring tribes. One night Grendel comes to raid and eavesdrop upon Hrothgar’s hall but finds that all the men have left. He then follows the tracks of the men to the mead hall of another rival king named Hygmod. In order to prevent war Hygmod offers his sister Weltheow to Hrothgar. When Weltheow enters into the Danish community, the mood of the town changes and the shaper begins to sing about beauty and love. Not only this, but Weltheow’s presence prevents Grendel from attacking or inflicting damage upon the mead hall. Grendel becomes disgusted by her selflessness and beauty. This is displayed when she fills the mead bowls and forgives Unferth of his treachery. During the winter Hygmod, Weltheow’s brother decides to visit. During his visit, Hrothgar takes over the duties of filling the bowls with mead, in order to please Weltheow. Then one night Grendel, never ceasing to think about Weltheow, intrudes into the hall and tortures Weltheow by burning her over a fire. However, Grendel realizes that her death will be meaningless, so he lets her go.

Main Events

In Chapter seven, Grendel realizes his purpose in life when he states that he when he destroys Hrothgar’s hall he will no longer be the Hrothgar wrecker. Grendel understands he must be able to hold back on his attacks in order to continue to have a purpose in life. Later on in the chapter one begins to meet Weltheow, the queen, who was a gift from the Scyldings to the Danes as a sign of peace between the tribes. Weltheow is significant because she fosters peace in all parts of Hrothgar’s kingdom both internal and external. Grendel recognizes her purity and selflessness and therefore becomes destroyed by her goodness. This agony of Grendel leads him to force her into torture in order that he may overcome her temptation of purity and peace.


Title: Critical Theory

When reviewing this chapter one may observe it from the feminist perspective. In the governing system, Hrothgar as well as the men hold positions of power but Weltheow, the queen, is the one who dictates what is to be done with her pleasure held in the eyes of Hrothgar at all times. The female figure held a very important role, whether it is as a sign of peace, housekeeping, or serving guests. Weltheow is one who kept the peace between both tribes, as seen between Hygmod and Hrothgar, as well as warriors, as seen between Unferth and the other soldiers. Without this peace society would deteriorate and become corrupt. Weltheow is the individual force that holds all of society together.

Critical Theory

The meadhall where Weltheow would serve her guests both domestic and foreign.

In the modern world Weltheow may be compared to Ellen Johson Sirleaf of Libea. She is the first female president of Liberia, and all of Africa. Ellen Johnson has fought throughout all of her presidency for women's safety and rights. As a result of this she has won the Nobel Peace Prize as well as other rewards. Ellen Johnson is the modern day Weltheow who provides social stability and peace in the world.

Modern Times

Image of Weltheow

Weltheow serving her guests.


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