By confining the enactment of criminal justice to a personal level, he also expresses his admiration for the Old English wergild
and its Icelandic equivalent.
15) The institution of wergild
is of course one product of these typifications.
the law itself contemplates a situation in which, in the genealogical breach, a woman becomes a functional son, not only in the transaction of wergild
, but also in the matter of inheritance and also, at least in principle, in the actual prosecution of feud.
600, the Anglo-Saxon king AEthelberht wrote the first of many legal codes that established different values for different sorts of people,(6) and before long most Germanic tribes used this wergild
, or man-price, to define a person's place in society.
The strong personal bond between king and thane known as the comitatus (surprisingly Heaney doesn't use the word), wergild
, or the legally fixed price paid as compensation for injury as a means of avoiding blood feuds, and the actual and symbolic importance of mead halls, such as Heorot Hall, as refuges against the monstrous are addressed to provide readers with the necessary background.
The "Finnsburg episode" envelopes us in a society that is at once honour-bound and bloodstained, presided over by the laws of the blood-feud, where the kin of a person slain are bound to exact a price for the death, either by slaying the killer or by receiving satisfaction in the form of wergild
(the "man-price"), a legally fixed compensation.