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Beowulf Case

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Comitatus is defined as the bond existing between a Germanic warrior and his Lord, ensuring that neither leaves the field of battle before the other. In Beowulf, this bond is exemplified by Beowulf, his allies, Wiglaf, and Hrothgar. It holds them together, and brings them to view each other as brothers. They fight for each other, and help in all ways they deem necessary. However, in the end, a false comitatus is broken between Beowulf and his men when he is forced to fight the dragon.

Throughout the story, Beowulf has comitatus with many other people. At the beginning, he and his soldiers have a bond that was forged long before the story's start. He is a great friend and ally to Hrothgar, and doesn't let him down. He demonstrates this comitatus when he fights Grendel for Hrothgar. It isn't his land, these aren't his people, but he chooses to fight because of his bond with the King. He doesn't need to, but he helps Hrothgar as if he were his brother. He continues to do the same when he fights Grendel's mother. He doesn't do it for himself, but to help his friend, the king. With the slaying of Grendel and Grendel's mother, he gains an even stronger relationship with Hrothgar.

Beowulf's soldiers also show comitatus when he goes to fight Grendel. They come along, knowing that they may not come back. They spend the night in the mead hall with Beowulf knowing that Grendel would attack, and knowing what he was capable of. Despite their knowledge of the risks that Beowulf was taking, they stuck by his side. One of the soldiers does infact die when Grendel first attacks, in the ultimate show of their bond. The others don't flee, but instead they stay by Beowulf's side while he fights Grendel. The soldiers continue to stick with him, and only stay uninvolved with the conflict with Grendel's mother because Beowulf wants to fight her alone. It is in this way that they show their bond with their leader.

There is, however, an example in the story that counteracts this idea. At the end of the story, when Beowulf fights the dragon, all of his soldiers but Wiglaf abandon him. They break the false comitatus they had with Beowulf by leaving him to fight the dragon alone in his time of need. They left their lord to die, because they themselves were afraid to have to face the same fate. Despite the rest of the soldiers fleeing from battle with the dragon, Wiglaf continues to fight along side Beowulf until both Beowulf and the dragon die. He then continues to show his comitatus even after Beowulf's death. He does so by yelling at the soldiers who broke their bonds, and proceeds to build a tower in Beowulf's memory.

Comitatus is shown on many occasions and by many people within the story. It is exemplified by Beowulf, his allies, Wiglaf, and Hrothgar, throughout

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