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.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- One of the oldest and most prominent issues that mankind has faced throughout history is that of their own mortality. In every society mankind has wrestled with the inevitable problem of their eventual death, and literature often reflects each society’s take on their mortality. For instance one of the most pronounced motifs in the epic poem Beowulf is the impending doom that each and every character knows will eventually come for them. This is most clearly illustrated by the protagonist himself in his dialogue with other characters.... [tags: Beowulf, Epic poetry, Hroðgar, 11th century]
1468 words (4.2 pages)
- Beowulf is the conventional title of an Old English epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines, set in Scandinavia, commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature due to the fact that it is the oldest surviving epic poem of Old English and also the earliest vernacular English literature. Tragedy and epic have been much discussed as separate genres, but critics have not hesitated to designate certain characters and events in epics as tragic. For the most part, they have assumed or asserted an identity between epic and dramatic tragedy.... [tags: Old English, Poem, Scandinavia]
1330 words (3.8 pages)
- Beowulf – its Structure There is a considerable diversity of opinion regarding the structure of the poem Beowulf. This essay hopes to enlighten the reader on some of the opinions expressed by literary scholars on this issue. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature states: It is generally thought that several originally separate lays have been combined in the poem, and, though no proof is obtainable, the theory in itself is not unlikely. These lays are usually supposed to have been four in number and to have dealt with the following subjects: (1) Beowulf’s fight with Grendel, (2) the fight with Grendel’s mother, (3) Beowulf’s return, (4) the fight with th... [tags: Epic Beowulf essays]
1948 words (5.6 pages)
- Beowulf The classic hero is a well-known character of high social position whose qualities represent those valuable to his society. The hero is pitted against monsters and is, therefore, strong and courageous often to the point of seeming superman. Beowulf often displays cunning and craftiness in dealing with others. At the same time, since he represents all humans, he struggles to overcome human weaknesses. He is challenged and he triumphs. In Beowulf: A new telling by Robert Nye, Beowulf is a classic hero.... [tags: Epic Beowulf essays]
783 words (2.2 pages)
- Beowulf - A Literary Epic There are ten basic elements that help to classify a poem as an epic. Although Beowulf does not contain all of these elements, it has enough of them to still identify it as an epic. There are ten characteristics of an epic: the central character has heroic or superhuman qualities, the action takes place on an immense scale, the action involves the fate of an entire population or the whole human race, gods or semi-divine creatures aid one side or the other, the author announces his theme in opening, a character calls on the muses to help him, the poem begins "in media res," the style of poem is often noble and majestic, the characters speak in long set speec... [tags: Epic Beowulf essays]
1240 words (3.5 pages)
- The Origin and Evolution of Beowulf The origin of Beowulf remains a mystery, as both the poet and the year of composition has eluded scholars for centuries. Although "[it] is now widely believed that Beowulf is the work of a single poet who was Christian . . ." (preface, Heaney 29), I see Beowulf as a mosaic of many poets. In this paper, I will argue that with each new translation of this Old English epic, a new author of Beowulf is born. The twenty-first century poet Seamus Heaney, who translated the Beowulf on which this paper is based, injects aspects of his world into this ancient poem. Published in the year 2 000, the inconsistency of this most modern text reveals the messy... [tags: Epic Beowulf essays]
1583 words (4.5 pages)
- Sources for Beowulf Many of the characters and episodes and material artifacts mentioned poetically in Beowulf are likewise presented to us from archaeological sources, from literary sources, and from English and Scandinavian records. “I suggested in an earlier paper that the Beowulf poet’s incentive for composing an epic about sixth-century Scyldings may have had something to do with the fact that, by the 890’s at least, Heremod, Scyld, Healfdene, and the rest, were taken to be the common ancestors both of the Anglo-Saxon royal family and of the ninth-century Danish immigrants, the Scaldingi” (Frank 60).... [tags: Epic Beowulf essays]
2497 words (7.1 pages)
- Bravery in Beowulf Bravery is like a very trusted friend, it will never let you down. That statement holds true in the great epic of "Beowulf." "Beowulf" is the story of a great hero who comes to the aid of a troubled king. Beowulf hears that king Hrothgar is having trouble and immediately comes to help with no questions asked. he defeats the monster, Grendel, with his bare hands. Beowulf then defeats Grendel's mother along with a dragon until he is fatally injured. Bravery is a very admirable characteristic that few people possess.... [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]
499 words (1.4 pages)
- Social Codes in Beowulf In reading Beowulf, one cannot help noticing the abundance of references to weapons and armor throughout the text. Many passages involving weapons and armor contain important messages that the author is trying to convey. These passages involve the choice to use or refrain from using arms, the practice of disarming oneself upon entering another's home, and the idea of a man's worth being measured by his weapons.... [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essay]
902 words (2.6 pages)
- Poetic Devices in Beowulf There are a small variety of poetic devices employed in the composition of the poem Beowulf, and they are repeated numerous times. The Old English poetry of Beowulf is distinguished primarily by its heavy use of allliteration, or the repetition of the initial sounds of words. In the original manuscript version of the poem, alliteration is employed in almost every line (or two half-lines); in modern translations of the poem this is not so. In lines 4 and 5 of the poem we find: Oft Scyld Scefing sceapena preatum monegum maegpum meodo-setla ofteah The repetition of the “s” sound in line... [tags: Epic Beowulf essays]
992 words (2.8 pages)
- An Analysis of the Epic Poem, Beowulf - Origin and Evolution of Beowulf
- Epic of Beowulf Essay - Beowulf as Tragic Hero
- The Allegory of the Dragon in Beowulf
- Mix of Pagan and Christian Ideas in Beowulf
- Does the Hero Decline in the Epic of Beowulf?
- Epic of Beowulf Essay - The Balance of Joy and Sorrow in Beowulf