Louder than the rest

Beowulf’s funeral pyre is a hyper-masculine event, centered on Beowulf’s prowess as a warrior and the legacy of violence in his life, evidenced by the “hoard helmets […] shields, and steel shirts” (3138-39) that his mourners place in the pyre, according to Beowulf’s own wishes (3139). This ceremony is briefly interrupted, however, by one of the women. She sings a song that despairs the forthcoming violence, of “Reaping, raping, feasts of blood” (3152), painting a vivid picture of violence to come. It ends rapidly, and the masculine tone of mourning returns. I want to know what purpose this passage serves, as it seems like a deliberate departure from the context of the narrative. I’m also curious about the feminine language and comparison in the lines “across her country, claiming her body” (3154). It evokes a powerful and deeply damaged female voice that is missing throughout most of the narrative, and I’d like to know why the narrator chose to include it here, at the very end.

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