The Style of Beowulf

Powerful Essays
The Style of Beowulf

Ursula Schaefer in “Rhetoric and Style” gives an overview of the history of criticism of style:

Examination of the poem’s rhetoric and style started out with investigating common Germanic features. On the other end of the scale, attention was given to a possible Latin influence on the poem’s style. Recently, there have been reconsiderations of authochthonous traditions linked mainly with the analysis of larger narrative patterns (105).

Beowulf ‘s stylistic features will be examined in this essay, along with the perspectives of various literary critics.

T. A. Shippey in “The World of the Poem” expresses himself on the subject of a point of style in the Old English poem Beowulf: “The poet reserves the right to say what people are thinking; he does not, however, regard this as ultimately important” (39). It is true that the reader is forced to draw conclusions, from the words and actions of the characters, about the thoughts of the characters. This is one of the many preferences of the author which contribute to the style or “how” writers say what they say (Abrams 303).

Joan Blomfield in “The Style and Structure of Beowulf” takes note of two important features of the poem’s style – the irony and the tendency to antithesis:

This tendency to antithesis, frequently verging on paradox, and the constant play of irony are but stylistic manifestations of those movements of the poet’s thought which shape the very stuff of the poem (Blomfield 58).

Antithesis abounds: The poem has a reference to the burning of Heorot included in the description of its first glories, and the prediction of family strife with Ingeld while yet all is well in ...

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...oks, 1977.

Donaldson, E. Talbot. “Old English Prosody and Caedmon’s Hymn.” Beowulf: The Donaldson Translation, edited by Joseph F. Tuso. New York, W.W.Norton and Co.: 1975.

Magoun, Frances P. “Oral-Formulaic Character of Anglo-Saxon Narrative Poetry.” In TheBeowulf Poet, edited by Donald K. Fry. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Schaefer, Ursula. “Rhetoric and Style.” In A Beowulf Handbook, edited by Robert Bjork and John D. Niles. Lincoln, Nebraska: Uiversity of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Shippey, T.A.. “The World of the Poem.” In Beowulf – Modern Critical Interpretations, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.

Tharaud, Barry. “Anglo-Saxon Language and Traditions in Beowulf.” In Readings on

Beowulf, edited by Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,1998.
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