Essay on The Moral Codes of Comitatus and Chivalry

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The Moral Codes of Comitatus and Chivalry

Throughout history, there have been different codes of ethics that are often more important to a society that the governing laws of the land. While laws are written standards that people are compelled to abide by for fear of punishment, these codes serve as guideline for how people should live their lives. Two such codes are comitatus as demonstrated in Beowulf and chivalry as depicted in Morte D’Arthur. When the characters in these stories live by the constructs of these social systems, the society flourishes. When characters stray from each social code, however, the entire society falls victim. Comitatus is a social system under which people serve their courageous leader no
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Beowulf’s men, recognizing him as the chief also conform to the rules of comitatus when Beowulf is engaged in his battle with Grendel. While engaged in a struggle with Grendel in Heorot, Hrothgar’s great gathering hall, Beowulf’s men wake up. They immediately draw their swords and begin hacking at Grendel and persist in doing so despite the fact that Grendel is impervious to the blows of their swords. Despite the ineffectiveness of their attacks and the fear of a gruesome death, the soldiers, bound by comitatus, do not stop fighting until Beowulf kills Grendel. It is the failure to honor this code that nearly costs Beowulf his life however. After Grendel’s mother attacks Heorot, Beowulf once again sets out on a mission of vengeance for Hrothgar. Hrothgar promises Beowulf great treasure if he can kill Grendel’s mother. This in itself is a departure from comitatus, because having pledged allegiance to Hrothgar, Beowulf should not need the incentive of treasure. Fighting nobly is treasure enough. Beowulf then swims to the troll’s cave alone and engages in a massive one-on-one battle with Grendel’s mother. Although he eventually emerges victorious, society deems that he was weaker because he was fighting alone. This departure from comitatus finally does result in the death of Beowulf in the final

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