Essay PreviewMore ↓
The poem Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, is largely based around the monstrousness of Grendel and his mother. It was a difficult task for Heaney to translate the poem into Modern English while maintaining the beauty of the language and capturing the horror of the monsters. He utilises devices such as structure, literary devices and characterisation to emphasise the fear apparent in the text. Though Heaney’s writing is effective, it is impossible to use the incidents in the poem that relate to events which took place centuries ago to instil fear into the story. Though many of the issues in Beowulf are no longer relevant, Heaney is still able to capture the monstrousness of Grendel and his mother.
The poem Beowulf was composed some time around the mid Seventh Century in Anglo-Saxon English. It is over three thousand lines long and stands as one of the foundation works of poetry in English. It is an imaginative work where the structuring is as important as the language. Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf was labour intensive, slow work. He tried to pick a way through the syntax, get the run of the meaning establishes and then hope that the lines could be turned into metrical shape and raised to the power of verse. Seamus Heaney began his translation of Beowulf in the mid 1980s and it took him until 1999 to finish capturing the beauty of the poem in Modern English.
The structure of Beowulf is first involved in capturing the monstrousness of Grendel by stating his ancestry and background:
“Grendel was the name of this grim demon haunting the marches, marauding round the heath and the desolate fens; he had dwelt for a time in misery among the banished monsters, Cain’s clan, whom the creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts.” (Lines 102-107)
After Grendel’s first attack the poet allows a large amount of time to pass to give the reader a sense of despair and to emphasise the impact that Grendel had on Hrothgar’s people:
“For twelve winters, seasons of woe, the lord of the shieldings suffered under his load of sorrow; and so, before long, the news was known over the whole world.” (Lines 147- 150)
The poet builds up the monstrousness of Grendel’s attacks by recounting them so that the reader absorbs the force of the battle. He also repeats the pattern of Beowulf’s victory ie.
How to Cite this Page
"Beowulf." 123HelpMe.com. 24 Feb 2020
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Beowulf, the Hero 	The epic poem Beowulf, which was told from generation to generation honoring modern Anglo-Saxon beliefs, describes a heroic man who saves a village in their time of need. By definition a hero is a man of exceptional quality. Exceptional quality doesn’t even begin to describe the man that is Beowulf. Beowulf has many heroic characteristics from his super human strength to victoriously slaying monsters and other ferocious beasts. He has excellent leadership skills and commonly boasts of his achievements.... [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]
788 words (2.3 pages)
- He killed three monsters and then he died. Not a very interesting fate, but it is none the less one that I find myself having to write about regardless of whether or not I want to. Thus it was, the mighty Beowulf of old England that went forth to slay the evils which plagued the lands of his own people as well as those of his neighboring tribes. The second battle was one that was brought about by Beowulf’s willingness to go and help an old friend, and thus he nearly lost his life once more.... [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]
1147 words (3.3 pages)
- Beowulf is a well-known Anglo-Saxon poem that has been in English classes around the United States for almost as long as there have been schools around. Beowulf is not an actual picture of historic Denmark, Geatland, or Sweden around 500 A.D., yet it is on a general view, a self-consistent picture, a construction bearing clearly the marks of design and thought. Beowulf to us can only truly be enjoyed if one reads it in the old English version. The effects of the poem are not the same, although the sense of the heroic beast is very true.... [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]
1412 words (4 pages)
- The epic poem, Beowulf, depicts the most heroic man of the Anglo-Saxon times. The hero, Beowulf, was an outstanding warrior with all the extraordinary values required by a hero. He was able to use his super-human physical strength and courage to put his people before himself. He encountered terrifying monsters and the most ferocious of beasts, but he never feared the threat of death. His leadership skills were excellent and he was able to boast about all his achievements. Beowulf was the ultimate epic hero who risked his life countless times for immortal glory and for the good of others.... [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]
995 words (2.8 pages)
- Beowulf The poem Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, is largely based around the monstrousness of Grendel and his mother. It was a difficult task for Heaney to translate the poem into Modern English while maintaining the beauty of the language and capturing the horror of the monsters. He utilises devices such as structure, literary devices and characterisation to emphasise the fear apparent in the text. Though Heaney’s writing is effective, it is impossible to use the incidents in the poem that relate to events which took place centuries ago to instil fear into the story.... [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essay]
923 words (2.6 pages)
- Beowulf This essay will show how the epic Anglo-Saxon/Scandinavian poem Beowulf is part of the heroic culture seen all over Europe at that time. While the poem has been escribed to about the year 800, recent research has indicated beyond doubt that it was first written down between 1087 and 1090, as entertainment for the court of King Henry II. (Aubrey Beardsley, Beowulf: New Beginnings, 2001, p. 74) Of course, the late eleventh centry was merely when it was actually put to paper, the language of the poem shows that there are many parts that are much older, that probably date to the Celtic Iron Age of southern Norway.... [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essay]
534 words (1.5 pages)
- Type of Work: Heroic epic poem Setting "Land of the Geats," southern Sweden and Denmark; c. sixth century Principal Characters Beowulf, a Geat hero Hrothgar, King of the Danes Unferth, a Danish warrior Wiglaf, Beowulf's nephew and loyal court noble Story Overview Long ago in Hrothgar's Danish kingdom lived a gruesome monster-giant named Grendel, who nightly roamed the countryside. Rising from his marshy home, he would stalk to the King's high hall, and there devour fifteen of Hrothgar's sleeping warriors.... [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]
1590 words (4.5 pages)
- Beowulf The translated Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf is the one of the most important works of Old English literature, and is well deserved of the distinction. The epic tells the story of a hero; a Scandinavian prince named Beowulf, who rids the Danes of the monster Grendel, a descendant of Cain, and of his exploits fighting Grendel’s mother and a dragon. Throughout the epic, the Anglo-Saxon author uses many elements to build a certain depth to the characters. Three main important character elements in Beowulf are wealth and honor, Biblical, and man (good) versus wild (evil) themes.... [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]
839 words (2.4 pages)
- The oldest English epic, Beowulf, although composed twelve centuries ago, uses many of the same ideals and values that exist in modern life and modern literature. These attributes are still important, but they do not occupy every aspect of life as in Anglo- Saxon England. Some of the ideals have little use today, such as fate, while other virtues, such as loyalty, are encouraged and highly respected traits. Other values, like fame, have taken on bad connotations in modern day and are not esteemed as they once were.... [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]
545 words (1.6 pages)
- Beowulf Since the dawn of time, the forces of evil have always tried to gain an upper hand over the forces of good. The battles between these two forces have transcended time in both different forms and in different places. Every culture since the birth of man has background stories of creation and the battles that are waged between the two forces of light and dark. Leaving in the aftermath, stories and legends that are passed down from generation to generation through the vast cultures and civilizations.... [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]
1821 words (5.2 pages)
Beowulf is a poem to be performed and therefore literary devices are very important. Alliteration is frequently used:
“…a wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.” (Lines 5-6)
This builds excitement and accentuates action. Foreshadowing is used a number of times in Beowulf eg. The song of Sigmund (Lines 886- 914) suggests what Beowulf is to achieve later on. This, along with other language devices, adds to suspense. The poet mixes a use of ensanguined details to emphasise the monstrosity of Grendel and his mother while also exhibiting a lack of description of Grendel’s appearance to build fear, as Grendel is what the reader imagines him to be. Dramatic irony is another literary device used in Beowulf so that during battle scenes the reader knows who will win and is therefore more concerned with the horror of the fighting.
The characterisation in Beowulf adds to the monstrosity of the poem in many ways. He dehumanises the monsters by giving very few details of their appearance, he does, however, describe Grendel’s arm:
“Every nail, claw-scale and spur, every spike and welt on the hand of that heathen brute was like barbed steel. Everybody said there was no honed iron hard enough to pierce him through, no time-proofed blade that could cut his brutal, blood-caked claw.” (Lines 983- 989)
Grendel’s frightfulness is heightened by his gradual characterisation throughout the beginning of the poem. He is antagonised in the fact the he hates the sounds of joy and singing that come from Heorot Hall. He is likened to a king opposite Hrothgar to show how powerful he is. After Grendel is built up in his monstrosity, Grendel’s mother is introduced into Beowulf. Her hellishness is, in comparison to Grendel’s, far greater.
This can be seen in the fact that Beowulf was able to kill Grendel with his bare hands while he needed full armour to defeat Grendel’s mother. Grendel’s mother is described as a: “…monstrous hell-bride, brooded on her wrongs. She had been forced down into fearful waters, the cold depths, after Cain killed his father’s son, felled his own brother with a sword.” (Lines 1261- 65)
There are a number of aspects of fear apparent in Beowulf that an audience in the present generation wouldn’t understand. There are incidents in the poem that relate to events which took place around the time that the poem was written and so today’s audience wouldn’t understand them. For example, Grendel’s attacks took place at night and in Viking law an attack at night was considered murder.
Seamus Heaney was able to translate the poem, Beowulf, in such a way that the monstrousness of Grendel and his mother is still very evident. This was obviously not an easy task. He did it through his use of structure, language techniques and characterisation. The horror of the two antagonistic characters is continually built up throughout the poem until their death.