“Space and Feasting Hall in the Heroic Poetry”
Medieval and Early Modern English Studies, Volume 14 No. 2 (2006)
The feasting hall in heroic poetry has special meanings since it contains both physical and moral dimensions. In heroic poetry such as Beowulf the most important concept, the binding force of society, was the comitatus, the mutual loyalty between lord and his chosen warriors. The lord gave legal and economic protection in return for military services. The central location for the comitatus society was the hall, called goldsele (gold-hall), meduseld (mead-hall), hringsele (ring-hall) or gifhealle (gift-hall) in Beowulf. Here vows of allegiance were interchanged, heroic boasts made and feasting and mead-drinking carried out. In this context hall functions not only as a space for entertainment but also as a place where heroic ethos is formed. The beer (mead)-drinking at the feasting hall implies not only the literal act of consumption, but also the ritual swearing of vows. This drinking custom at the mead-hall is especially important in clan society, since it is understood as a symbol and a confirmation of mutual social obligation. A successful lord means the one who secures a consistent binding force based on complete loyalty. Since this binding force is directly related to the existence of the heroic society, the distribution of wine and a pledge from warriors contain more significant symbolic meaning than the mere formality of a banquet hall.