The Old English Judith differs from the Liber Judith of the Vulgate at several crucial points, and in one particularly important way. In the Vulgate version of the story, Judith is a heroine in every sense of the word: she is a tropological symbol of Chastity at battle with Licentiousness, an allegorical symbol of the Church in its constant and eventually triumphant battle with Satan, and an inspirational figure who infuses her warriors with much needed courage and confidence; but the Vulgate Judith is also, in a very real sense, the agent by which God's will is executed and the Hebrews are saved. In the Vulgate version, the children of Israel could not possibly defeat the vast and mighty armies of the Assyrians without such divine intervention. Judith is central to the victory of the Jews, not only in a symbolic sense, but also in a practical one: she devises a plan, she implements it, and she, displaying the severed head of Holofernes to her people, explains just how they might achieve the impossible. It is according to her plan that the Assyrian generals discover the headless body of their leader before the battle, and the pandemonium and disarray which ensue as a result of this discovery are central to that plan, and to the Hebrew victory. [excerpt]
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Fee, Christopher R. "'Judith' and the Rhetoric of Heroism in Anglo‐Saxon England." English Studies 78.5 (1997), 401-406.
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