Evil is something that exists throughout the world no matter what. It can be expressed in many different ways but the best way it can be defined is something that is morally wrong or something that is harmful or injurious. In the play, A Man For All Seasons, by Robert Bolt, and in the epic, Beowulf, translated by Burton Raffel, evil is a major factor that exists. Although an evil presence is coexisting in each story, it is expressed in two different ways because of the two different time periods. In Anglo-Saxon times, evil was seen as a living force that attacks and murders humanity and in Renaissance England, evil was viewed as a matter of conscience. In both stories evil can be expressed as something that is contradicting whatever is considered as the authoritative figure in the land. Evil can also be expressed as whatever the heroic figure in each story is set out to kill or be killed by. And lastly, evil can be analyzed as whatever God states is worthy of being evil. It is a constant theme within the two stories and it is highly regarded as something that must be eradicated as soon as possible because of the danger that it puts different people in.??
The conscience of each individual in, A Man For All Seasons, is the most important thing to ones values. The conscience of the main characters, Thomas More and King Henry VIII are what is considered evil in the story. King Henry VIII is faced with a dilemma that consists of his wife, Catherine who is unable to bear an heir to the throne. As a result of this, Henry decides that he wants to divorce Catherine and remarry a woman worthy of bearing his son. In the story, it is very important to Henry that others think of him as a moral person, and he therefore cares greatly about what Thomas More, a very moral man, has to say and think about him. Henry, then goes to Thomas More to ask for his permission and advice about the divorce. More, being the morality figure that he lives up to be, turns Henry down. This immediately puts More in a position where he is considered as one that contradicts the state and the laws of the King. This is a result of More holding to his own conscience and expressing his own personal moral beliefs. An example from the book, A Man For All Season, shows that what More believed was morally correct and what his own conscience told him was right, is what offends the King.
NORFOLK: Sir Thomas More, you are called before us here at the Hall of Westminster to answer charge of High Treason. Nevertheless, and though you have heinously offended the Kings Majesty, we hope if you will even forthink and repent of your obstinate opinions, you may still taste his gracious pardon. (Bolt 149). This quote indicates that More was considered evil by the law and by the king for sticking to his own personal conscience and beliefs. This proves that whatever was on the side contradicting the law was in the Renaissance times was considered a threat or evil presence.
In Anglo-Saxon times, evil was the last thing that one should have the desire to encounter. In the epic, Beowulf, evil is expressed through the character called Grendel. Grendel is a demon descended from Cain, who preys on King Hrothgars warriors in the Kings Mead-hall, Heorot. King Hrothgar is the king of the Danes who was once a successful military commander, until the evil presence of Grendel arrived to terrorze his people. The monsters thoughts were as quick as his greed or his claws: He slipped through the door and there in the silence snatched up thirty men, smashed them unknowing in their beds and ran out with their bodies, the blood dripping behind him, back to his lair, delighted with his nights slaughter(Raffel 56-62). This refers to one of Grendels hunts towards the Kings men. It shows that Grendel is the evil presence is form of a monster who murders without mercy. The depiction of Evil in Anglo-Saxon times is best described through the example of Grendel. His evil presence interprets what for evil took in Anglo-Saxon times, and being Grendel, the type of evil was the type to go against the highest power of the king to the point of murdering his own men.
In Anglo-Saxon times, heroes were often called to fight the forces of evil that were endangering their land. Evil can be expressed by whatever the Hero in those times was fighting. In Beowulf, the Geatish hero by the name of Beowulf is a strong and able warrior who is willing to fight or die for valor. His main purpous is to eradicate the evil Grendel by all means necessary. The Valor of a hero can only be proved by their fighting against tremendous and terrifying adversaries, with the universe crashing about them, the sun darkened, the stars falling from their places, flames playing against the sky itself, the earth sinking into the sea (Phillpotts). This gives an explanation of what evil was looked at upon in Anglo-Saxon times. It was the Hero, Beowulf, who clashes with the tremendous and terrifying adversary, Grendel for a fight to relinquish the evil haunting the Kings lands.
The aspect of religion when dealing with certain evil can often explain what is considered evil and why. During the Renaissance time period, religious beliefs and views were considered a major role in society. The conscience of those living in the time, was often being judged by God. Evil could be interpreted in ways dealing with your belief in God and what powers and laws he had for the people. Thomas More is faced with a cross roads of whether to take the route of joining the King and risk betraying Gods rules of marriage, or to take sides with the church and believe in God and respect his authority of ruler of the nations. Thomas More takes the side of the church and follows the idea that God judges the consciences of all, and if one is against God, then that person could be considered evil. More went to his death as he said on the scaffold, the kings good servant and Gods first ( Lahr). More believes that following God is the only way to go even if it resulted to death. More decides to stay true to his own beliefs and his own conscience based off of what is morally right under the law of God. This shows that in the Renaissance times, evil was viewed by what beliefs that people had in God, and the conscience and beliefs of the King are considered evil under what God laid down as rules.
Beowulf-Stronger sense in what god views as evil-Grendal(punished by God) ----Physical being that punishes bad guys. Bad things happen to people who god states as bad.