Essay on Fate in Beowulf, Grendel, and Macbeth

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Fate in Beowulf, Grendel, and Macbeth

Fate plays a significant role in the Old English epic poem Beowulf and William Shakespeare's play Macbeth.. The major events of the poem, such as the three killings by Beowulf and his own death, are said to have been predestined. In Macbeth, fate is so significant that it is personified by the Weird Sisters, who drive the action of the play. But if predestination exists, then there must be an agent that determines destiny. In Beowulf, God plays this role, and fate is generally accepted as God's will. In John Gardner's Grendel, a novel which serves as a commentary on the poem, fate is totally predetermined, and is the will of no being. By contrast, Macbeth's agents of fate are the Witches,
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However, the work still includes an interesting commentary on "fate."

The three works, Beowulf, Grendel, and Macbeth have differing views on how fate is predetermined. Fate, in Beowulf, is not totally determined ahead of time:

How Shild made slaves of soldiers from every

Land, crowds of captives he'd beaten

Into terror; he'd traveled to Denmark alone,

An abandoned child, but changed his own fate,

Lived to be rich and much honored. (Beowulf, 23)

Shild could not have "changed his own fate" if it was totally determined ahead of time. But the poet of Beowulf says this, implying that fate was acknowledged in Anglo-Saxon culture as a very important force in the events of people's lives. Yet fate is not totally predetermined.

In Grendel, the dragon tells us that fate is, in fact, totally decided ahead of time:

"I know everything, you see," the old voice wheedled. "The beginning, the present, the end. Everything. You now, you see the past and the present, like other low creatures: no higher faculties than memory and perception. But dragons, my boy, have a whole different kind of mind." He stretched his mouth in a kind of smile, no trace of pleasure in it. "We see from the mountaintop: all time, all space. We see in one instant the passionate vision and the blowout. Not that we cause things to fail, you understand." He was testy all at once, as if

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