An Analysis of the Epic Poem, Beowulf - The Structure of Beowulf

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The Structure of Beowulf There are several structures which scholars find in the poem Beowulf. It is the purpose of this essay to briefly elaborate on these structures. The first theory regarding the structure of Beowulf is put forth by J.R.R. Tolkien in “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.” Tolkien states: The poem “lacks steady advance”: so Klaeber heads a critical section in his edition. But the poem was not meant to advance, steadily or unsteadily. It is essentially a balance, an opposition of ends and beginnings. In its simplest terms it is a contrasted description of two moments in a great life, rising and setting; an elaboration of the ancient and intensely moving contrast between youth and age, first achievement and final death. It is divided in consequence into two opposed portions, different in matter, manner and length: A from 1 to 2199 (including an exordium of 52 lines); B from 2200 to 3182 (the end)…. This simple and static structure, solid and strong, is in each part much diversified….(34-5) Tolkien views the stated division or structure as the main one in the poem, but he later qualifies this with the addition of another division: There is in fact a double division in the poem: the fundamental one already referred to, and a secondary but important division at line 1887. After that the essentials of the previous part are taken up and compacted, so that all the tragedy of Beowulf is contained between 1888 and the end (36). In following Tolkien’s “static” structure of the poem, we may not expect to find in Part I the references to Hygelac’s raid in lines 1202-14: This collar-ring traveled on Hygelac’s breast ... ... middle of paper ... ... by Donald K. Fry. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968. Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977. Leyerle, John. “The Interlace Structure of Beowulf.” In Beowulf: The Donaldson Translation, edited by Joseph F. Tuso. New York, W.W.Norton and Co.: 1975 Tolkien, J.R.R.. “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.” In TheBeowulf Poet, edited byDonald K. fry. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968. Robinson, Fred C. “Apposed Word Meanings and Religious Perspectives.” In Beowulf – Modern Critical Interpretations, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. Tripp, Raymond P. “Digressive Revaluation(s).” In Beowulf – Modern Critical Interpretations, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
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