The dialogue, action and motivation revolve about the characters in the poem (Abrams 32-33). It is the purpose of this essay to demonstrate the types of characters present in the anonymously written Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf - whether static or dynamic, whether flat or round, and whether protrayed through showing or telling.
At the very outset of the poem the reader is introduced, through “telling” by the scop, to Scyld Scefing, forefather of the Danish ruling dynasty:
Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,
from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore,
awing the earls. Since erst he lay
friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him:
for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve,
till before him the folk, both far and near,
who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate,
gave him gifts: a good king he!
Scyld and his son Beowulf and the latter’s son Healfdene are mentioned but are not characters in the poem. The first true character that the reader meets is Healfdene’s son, Hrothgar, present king of the Danes:
To Hrothgar was given such glory of war,
such honor of combat, that all his kin
obeyed him gladly till great grew his band
of youthful comrades.
Hrothgar quickly develops into a round character as the narrator begins to present his temperament and motivation:
It came in his mind
to bid his henchmen a hall uprear,
a master mead-house, mightier far
than ever was seen by the sons of earth,
and within it, then, to old and young
he would all allot that the Lord had sent him,
save only the land and the lives of his men.
Of generous mind, Hrothgar wishes only ...
... middle of paper ...
... Beowulf. He is static, remaining staunchly brave at the side of the hero. The author uses both showing and telling techniques to develop Wiglaf.
This essay has presented the types of characters found by the reader in the anonymously written Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf - whether static or dynamic, whether flat or round, and whether protrayed through showing or telling.
Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms, 7th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.
BEOWULF. From The Harvard Classics, Volume 49. P.F. Collier & Son, 1910.
Translated by Francis B. Gummere. http://wiretap.area.com/ftp.items/Library/Classic/beowulf.txt
Clark, George. “The Hero and the Theme.” In A Beowulf Handbook, edited by Robert Bjork and John D. Niles. Lincoln, Nebraska: Uiversity of Nebraska Press, 1997.
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