The Use of Setting in Beowulf
In Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, Heorot hall is a place where the warriors gather to drink, sing and even tell stories about their days. Heorot hall is a cheerful and upbeat place that resembles the happiness and light throughout the entire poem. As Grendel comes into the poem darkness appears and clashes with the light of Heorot hall. The importance of these two settings is that it allows for the mood of the poem to be set. These two different settings create obstacles throughout the poem, which allow for major events to happen.
Since the darkness settled in upon the light of Denmark, Beowulf must fight back against Grendel. The light of Heorot and the darkness of Grendel both come together to create the mood and theme throughout the entire poem. King Hrothgar created Heorot hall because he wanted a place where everyone could gather and share happiness. He didn’t want anything ordinary; he wanted something extravagant that would shine with light. Heorot hall was definitely what King Hrothgar hoped it would be. It carries a great amount of importance through the poem because it is the reason why Grendel showed up.
Grendel first heard the men when they were singing in Heorot hall. “It harrowed him to hear the din of the loud banquet every day in the hall (Beowulf 87). This proves that Grendel did hear the men within the hall, and that it frustrated him. This simple act happened because of Heorot hall, and the many events that followed after were based off of Grendel’s first experience with Heorot hall. Grendel resembled darkness because he brought troubles and violence into a place that was full of happiness and light.
The darkness contrasts with Heorot hall and forces the men to fight back for their happiness. Grendel crept around Heorot hall during the depth of the nights, when it was the darkest. He worked with the darkness so he could hide and create a creepier atmosphere for the men. The darkness of the poem was seen when Grendel first attacked the men at Heorot hall after nightfall. They were peacefully sleeping after their drinks and laughter filled stories, when Grendel came in to create havoc. “Greedy and grim, he grabbed thirty men from their resting places and rushed to his lair (Beowulf 122).
This states that Grendel is very raged and bitter towards the men of Heorot hall, and creates the beginning of the good versus evil theme. Grendel was the dark and somber setting of the poem because of his hatred and violence towards the men of Heorot hall through his many night raids. The good versus evil theme was established because of the light through Heorot hall and the darkness through Grendel. These settings allow for Grendel and Beowulf to clash and become the most important characteristics within the poem. Beowulf becomes the protagonist as he forcefully fights against the darkness of Grendel.
Grendel becomes the antagonist through the darkness of the poem as he continues killing the people of Denmark. The importance of these two settings is evident through the events of the poem. Every event that took place was established in the beginning through Heorot hall and the darkness of Grendel. Heorot hall was important because it gathered the men of Denmark into one place and set an ecstatic and cheerful mood upon the poem. In contrast, the darkness was important because it allowed for Grendel to attack Heorot hall and created a miserable and forsaken mood upon the poem.
As these two settings come together, they impact every event and establish the storyline of Beowulf. The setting allows for the poem to originate and continue with certain events and obstacles happening along the way. Beowulf is the first literary English masterpiece because of Heorot hall and the darkness that lurked upon the town. Without the setting, this storyline would have been completely different. This proves the great amount of influence behind the setting and why it is such a big aspect throughout many poems and stories.