How do I compare and contrast the epic conventions found in "Beowulf" and "The Lady's Dressing Room" ?

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

“The Lady’s Dressing Room” is a satirical poem that pokes fun at hero-worship, at least of the male-female kind.  “Beowulf” is an epic poem that celebrates a hero’s exploits.

In “The Lady’s Dressing Room,” a young man peeks into the dressing room of his lover.  It is kind of the equivalent of a bathroom in modern times.  There he sees that her beauty is largely manufactured, and she actually sweats and uses a chamber pot!  The things she puts on her face in order to look the perfect image of beauty are disgusting.

There Night-gloves made of Tripsy's Hide,
Bequeath'd by Tripsy when she dy'd, [30]
With Puppy Water, Beauty's Help
Distill'd from Tripsy's darling Whelp…

Beauty products made from dogs?  Yuck!  No wonder Strephon was repulsed!  In all seriousness, Strephon is a hypocrite.  He expects her to be beautiful and perfect, and is surprised to find she is human?  She goes through all the trouble for him, so he won’t have to see who she really is.  She is chasing an image of female beauty perpetuated by naïve men like Strephon.

In Beowulf, we also get to see that the hero is not perfect.  Beowulf demonstrates that he can be afraid, and can make mistakes.  However, by and large, he is still held up to the impossible standards of myth.  Even when things go wrong, he wins in the end.

“By your deeds, you have ensured that your fame shall endure through all the ages. May the Almighty ever reward you with good, just as He has now done!” (Ch 14)

Ultimately, Beowulf is able to retire to a quiet life, for the most part.  He even goes out fighting, risking his life in old age to get the firedrake.  All in all, he died a hero and that is how a hero should die!