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Faculty Mentor

Dr. Elizabeth E. Tavares

Subject Area

English

Abstract

This essay explores the quintessential accessory to any male warrior in medieval literature.The swords that belong to Grendel’s Mother in the medieval epic poem “Beowulf”and King Arthur in the “Morte d’Arthur”are used as metaphors and symbols to illuminate specific motivations fueling medieval English representations of masculinity. Grendel’s Mother’s sword underscores anxieties of Hrothgar’s people in “Beowulf”—namely, that of procreation and the subversion of traditional gender roles. Its destruction is key to understanding the disdain that the Danes hold against Grendel’s Mother as an aberrant model of loyalty. King Arthur’s, thrown into a lake and seemingly cleansed of its impurities, likewise highlights faults in his reign and their absolution after his death. The history of the medieval sword plays an important role in this analysis, as the jewels and engravings provide a new reading of weapons in medieval English poetry.

Keywords

Medieval Literature, English poetry, weaponry, Morte d’Arthur, Beowulf, Excalibur

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