Beowulf Author unknown Julia Kobeissi Mrs. Soraya Blell Beowulf Literary Analysis Thursday , October 30th , 2014 Introduction Beowulf is the oldest major work of literature in English . In fact , it’s in Anglo-Saxon times also known as Old English ; Beowulf has captured the attention of scholars and audiences because Beowulf , a great and glorious hero of the Geats arrives from his country over seas, clad in an armor and ready to do barehanded battle with a demonic monster, Grendel . Not only that ,but also he fights against Grendel’s mother who is bigger , worse and even more demonic .
But is not the end of it all , a mighty dragon that breathes fire shows up to test Beowulf’s powers . Beowulf is not a boring literature epic ; it is one that keeps you on your feet ; it is one you will definitely enjoy reading . The narrator recounts the story in the third person using literary figures , historical events and interesting theme plot showing the importance of establishing identity ; tension between the heroic code and other values ; the difference between a good warrior and a good king . I. Themes A. Good vs. Evil B. Identity C. Strength and Skill D. Wealth E. Religion F. Violence G. Courage H. The Supernatural II.
Character Analysis A. Character Roles 1. Protagonist 2. Antagonist 3. Guide Mentor 4. foil 5. Companion III. Literary Devices used in Beowulf A. Symbolism , Motifs , Imagery , metaphors , Allegories ,and Allusions 1. The sea , the Mere , and Water Imagery 2. Herot Hall (Mead-Hall) 3. Swords B. Kennings , Caesuras , and Alliterations IV. Setting and The Narrator’s Point of View V. Genre VI. Writing Style and diction VII. Description of Tittle and Ending VIII. Plot Analysis A. Initial Situation B. Conflict C. Complication D. Climax E. Suspense F. Denouement G. Conclusion IX. Booker’s Seven Basic Plot Analysis ( appreciation of the poem ) X.
Three act Plot Analysis Conclusion : Julia Kobeissi Mrs. Soraya Blell Literary Analysis of Beowulf Thursday , 30th October , 2014 Beowulf Beowulf is an epic poem that shows the early Anglo-Saxon or Old English warrior culture of Europe. It is said to be the only manuscript in which Beowulf is preserved and is thought to have been written around 1000 A. D. . Beowulf has come to be recognized as the body of epic English and British culture , in much the same way that Iliad and the Odyssey are the foundational epics for ancient Greece. Beowulf is about Danish and Swedish warriors who fight phenomenal monsters as well as each other .
The early Anglo-Saxons were the descendants of Germanic and Scandinavian tribes that invaded Britain . As a result there was a lot of shared background between the Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians , and the Anglo-Saxons looked back to their relative across the sea when they wanted to tell stories about their own past . Therefore , Beowulf is not just a story told in Britain , but also in Scandinavia ; we know this because in Britain, 8th to the 11th ,century was already Christianized but in the poem it describes the Scandinavian time where Christianity is new.
Beowulf is the simplest kind of epic ; it is about a strife between a brave , mighty , loyal warrior and the demons and dragons of hell . This shows that the forces of good battle the forces of evil over and over again , knowing that one day good will be defeated , yet battleling till the end . In Beowulf , ‘good’ means ‘strong , generous , and proud , ’ and ‘evil’ means ‘demonic creatures descended from hell ( marshes ) ’. The constant fight between good and evil here is a battle about fait and reputation .
Beowulf’s fights with fantastic demons and monsters , show that he is a heroic guardian of humanity , rather than just another strong-armed warrior . Because all of Beowulf’s fights are against mystical creatures , it is known then that real heroism is not a fight like mankind’s wars between different tribes and factions but it is a fight between two creatures that are magically strong with supernatural powers . In the poem there are quotes that help us understand how ‘good vs. evil ’ is the universal theme of the epic. “So times were pleasant for the people there until finally one, a fiend out of hell, egan to work his evil in the world. ” (99-101) Grendel isn’t just the enemy – he’s a personification of everything that is evil. He’s a “fiend out of hell,” a descendant of Cain, inherently rotten. This quote tells us that Grendel is the first monster that represents every black hearted creature we can think of from hell. Another quote that shows the universal theme is : “I had a fixed purpose when I put to sea. As I sat in the boat with my band of men, I meant to perform to the uttermost what your people wanted or perish in the attempt, in the fiend’s clutches. And I shall fulfill that purpose, rove myself with a proud deed or meet my death here in the mead-hall. ” (632-638) It’s all or nothing in this fight to the death: the good warrior Beowulf against the evil demon Grendel. This quote tells us that the battle between good and evil is endless and the hero will fight till he takes his last breathe . The second theme is ‘Identity Theme,’ ; all the characters in Beowulf are about setting up their own identities. It is all about getting trust by explaining who you are and what you are capable of doing ; showing loyalty , trust , bravery and honour were the qualities to live up to during the Anglo-Saxon times .
To do that , you had to overstate past achievements , victories and exploits to create a good reputation. Beowulf establishes his identity as a Geat warrior and eventually as a king because of several deeds , boasts , and gifts to his followers and people . The most important task of a great warrior in Beowulf is to establish an identity so grand and legendary that his fame lives on after his death, in memorials and in ballads. “Nor have I seen a mightier man-at-arms on this earth than the one standing here: unless I am mistaken, he is truly noble. This is no mere hanger-on in a hero’s armour. ” (244-251)
Beowulf’s identity as a hero is obvious to the Danish coast-guard just from looking at him. “So every elder and experienced councilman among my people supported my resolve to come here to you, King Hrothgar, because all knew of my awesome strength. They had seen me boltered in the blood of the enemies when I battled and bound five beasts, raided a troll-next and in the night-sea slaughtered sea-brutes. I have suffered extremes and avenged the Geats (their enemies brought it upon themselves, I devastated them). Now I mean to be a match for Grendel, settle the outcome in single combat. ” (415-426)
Beowulf describes who he is by recounting his various deeds. Beowulf’s speech really does work like a resume, giving Hrothgar his background and examples of his skills. It’s a snapshot of who he is. “Order my troop to construct a barrow on a headland on the coast, after my pyre has cooled. It will loom on the horizon at Hronesness and be a reminder among my people – so that in coming times crews under sail will call it Beowulf’s Barrow, as they steer ships across the wide and shrouded waters. ” (2802-2808) The final measure of Beowulf’s successful establishment of an identity as a warrior and a king is his memorial, Beowulf’s Barrow.
The Anglo-Saxon is a world of warriors and demons and the only way to survive is with strength. Warriors are willing to go to extreme measures to display their might , from swimming races to killing the demon . Even the worst enemies seem a little more pitying in Beowulf when he or she show vast physical strength , and even the best of kings or counselors seem a little more pathetic if he can’t defeat his foes himself. Having strength is all that matters; it is simple , straightforward , and pure ; either you have it or not . “I have heard moreover that the monster scorns n his reckless way to use weapons; therefore, to heighten Hygelac’s fame and gladden his heart, I hereby renounce sword and the shelter of the broad shield, the heavy war-board: hand-to-hand is how it will be, a life-and-death fight with the fiend. ” (433-440) Beowulf makes his battle with Grendel more than a simple slay-the-monster task. By announcing that it will be a hand-to-hand combat, he gains extra glory for himself and the Geatish king, Hygelac, turning the contest into a feat of strength as well as a fight against evil. “The captain of evil discovered himself in a handgrip harder than anything e had ever encountered in any man on the face of the earth. Every bone in his body quailed and recoiled, but he could not escape. He was desperate to flee to his den and hide with the devil’s litter, for in all his days he had never been clamped or cornered like this. ”(749-756) Beowulf’s first great exploit during the epic (we’re not counting his swimming contest with Breca, which we only see in flashback) is a combination of strength and skill: incredible strength, with which he clamps down on Grendel’s arm, and skill in wrestling, with which he finds a joint-lock in which to hold the demon. I would rather not use a weapon if I knew another way to grapple with the dragon and make good my boast as I did against Grendel in days gone by. But I shall be meeting molten venom in the fire he breathes, so I go forth in mail-shirt and a shield. ” (2518-2524) Beowulf is careful to explain why he allows himself the advantage of armor and weapons in his battle with the dragon: it’s because the dragon has its own special advantages: poisonous venom and the ability to breathe fire. It’s not enough for Beowulf to battle the dragon.
He has to emphasize that, in doing so, he really is meeting the creature on a level playing field, demonstrating his own strength and prowess, not just using better weapons. Beowulf depicts the warrior culture of old English and Scandinavia, which relied a lot on the giving and receiving of gold, armor , weapons , jewelry and other treasures. Every tribe is concerned around a king who gives gifts to warriors and country men to ensure their loyalty , in other words , the people are being rewarded for following him . Battles and family feuds are also resolved by the exchange of wealth.
If someone is killed, his family must be paid a “death-price” to prevent revenge killing. If a treaty needs to be enacted, some jewels better change hands, too. One of the most important characteristics of a king, in medieval Scandinavian warrior culture, is his generosity toward his followers. They stretched their beloved lord in his boat, laid out by the mast, amidships, the great ring-giver. Far-fetched treasures were piled upon him, and precious gear. I never heard before of a ship so well furbished with battle tackle, bladed weapons and coats of mail. The massed treasure as loaded on top of him: it would travel far on out into the ocean’s sway. (34-42) One of the first scenes in Beowulf is the funeral of the Danish king Shield Sheafson ; buried at sea, the proof of Shield’s greatness and his following among his people is the literal boatload of treasures sent out to sea with his body. “Then Halfdane’s son presented Beowulf with a gold standard as a victory gift, an embroidered banner; also breast-mail and a helmet; and a sword carried high, that was both precious object and token of honour. So Beowulf drank his drink, at ease; t was hardly a shame to be showered with such gifts in front of the hall-troops. ” (1019-1026) In return for Beowulf’s service, Hrothgar pays him in treasures, armor, and horses. This isn’t a special kindness – it’s exactly what Beowulf expects. Medieval tribes like the Danes and Geats insure that warriors will be loyal to kings by constantly rewarding those warriors with gold, jewels, and other loot. Religion is a touchy issue in Beowulf, because the story is told in late medieval Anglo-Saxon Britain, which has been Christianized, but it’s about early medieval Scandinavia, which is pagan.
The narrator of the poem compromises by making constant references to God’s decrees in general terms, but never discussing Jesus or the specific tenets of Christianity. “Afterwards a boy-child was sent to Shield, a cub in the yard, a comfort sent by God to that nation. He knew what they had tholed, the long times and troubles they’d come through without a leader; so the Lord of Life, the glorious Almighty, made this man renowned. ” (12-17) Throughout Beowulf, whenever great men achieve heroic triumphs, the narrator will be careful to attribute their prowess to God’s favor and divine plan because anyone with powers is given by ‘God’. 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. For the killing of Abel the Eternal Lord had exacted a price: Cain got no good from committing that murder because the Almighty made him anathema and out of the curse of his exile there sprang ogres and elves and evil phantoms and the giants too who strove with God time and again until He gave them their reward. ” (102-114)
It is no mistake that the only Biblical story specifically referred to in Beowulf’s the tale of Cain and Abel , brothers who took party in a bloody feud. Grendel represents the ultimate evil in this old English culture because he’s the descent of a man who killed his own brother. Violence is a way of life in the Scandinavian culture ; when a hero’s goal is to kill a demon that has attacked people for twelve years without anyone being able to stop it , you need a little bit of circumstantial violence. In Beowulf, the battle is bloody , brutal and dirty . “Suddenly then he God-cursed brute was creating havoc: greedy and grim, he grabbed thirty men from their resting places and rushed to his lair, flushed up and inflamed from the raid, blundering back with the butchered corpses. ” (120-125) Grendel isn’t only a violent murderer , but also a “greedy” killer who takes the lives of thirty men at one stroke. Even though the world of the Spear-Danes and Weather-Geats is a brutal medieval battlefield, Grendel’s violence stands out because it just doesn’t make sense according to their customs; why should he want to hate them because they won their battles ?
Grendel hated the warriors because they could feel love and feelings , while Grendel could only feel hate , violence and evil . Courage is the foundation of the warrior culture in this epic; a true warrior’s bravery comes from a completely fatalistic attitude toward life and indifference to death. Someday, he will die and be defeated. Everything is going to happen as God wills it. All that the warrior can do is meet every challenge fearlessly, increasing his own reputation for courageous deeds, so that when he dies he will be renowned for his bravery.
Nevertheless, there are a lot of bravados (false bravery ). “So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness. We have heard of those princes’ heroic campaigns. “(1-3) The first few lines of Beowulf immediately refer to “courage” as the ultimate form of “greatness. ” “The fact is, Unferth, if you were truly as keen and courageous as you claim to be Grendel would never have got away with such unchecked atrocity, attacks on your king, havoc in Heorot and horrors everywhere. ” (590-594)
Unferth can talk smack about Beowulf’s past deeds, but the truth is that Unferth himself doesn’t have any great deeds to boast about. Beowulf suggests that Unferth shouldn’t go around insulting other warriors’ courage until he’s done something courageous himself. The narrator in Beowulf always mentions that people are going to die ; during the Scandinavian period , seeing close friends die is a normal thing because they fought for a reason and dying was always a possibility then ; one must remember to do great deeds , so when one dies , one doesn’t really die . “Whichever one death fells ust deem it a just judgment by God. ” (440-441) The poet of Beowulf constantly emphasizes that death comes to everyone at whatever moment God wants; there is nothing mortal man can do to avoid this eventual fate. Instead of a conflict between straightforward good and evil, Beowulf depicts a conflict between demonic fantasy creatures and the power of fate wielded by a Christian God. Because Beowulf himself seems to be stronger and have more stamina than a normal mortal man, he needs fantastic monsters as his opponents. In other words , the supernatural Beowulf , has to fight supernatural monsters.
Every character in Beowulf has a main role to play in the poem . Beowulf , a Geatish warrior , is a protagonist . A protagonist is the main character in a certain literary work who the reader and writer emphasize with . Beowulf is obviously the main character because the poem is named after him ; he is the one that crosses over seas to on a challenge to make a name for himself. Beowulf encounters three separate monsters namely – Grendel , Grendel’s mother , and the dragon. The first part of the story , shows that Beowulf is a brave and strong warrior with legendary swimming skills against Breca. He lso shows the values of the Germanic code ,including loyalty , courtesy , and pride. His defeat of Grendel and Grendel’s mother validates his brave reputation , hence he is a true hero. In the second part of the story , set in Geatland . After Hygelac’s death , an important transitional moment for Beowulf, Beowulf doesn’t rush to become king ; instead he he supports Hygelac’s son, the rightful heir. With this gesture of loyalty and respect for the throne, he proves himself worthy of kingship. The final part is when Beowulf encounters the dragon ; this part of the story shows how a good king must act .
Beowulf , even at his old age , stands up against the dragon to give his people peace ; here Beowulf dies with honor and respect. Antagonists are characters who oppose and contend against other characters . In Beowulf there are three antagonists ; Grendel , Grendel’s Mother , and the Dragon . Grendel, a descendant of Cain, has been exiled by God (from his light) because of his ancestor. Given that Grendel took no true part in his banishment, he hates both God and those who worship God. Hrothgar built Heorot to honor all that the Lord had blessed him with (being power, wealth, and success in battle).
Given that Grendel was “tormented by the hall’s jubilant revel day by day,” his anger and hatred for the Dane people grew immensely. Not only did Grendel listen to the praise of God, he had to hear the people praise God for creating a beautiful world, filled with light, which they could worship in. Given his exile from God’s light, Grendel hated what Heorot represented–God and his love. Since Grendel could not act out against God himself, he choose to act out against God’s people and the place built for the worship of God, Heorot.
Grendel’s Mother , another demonic descendent of Cain ; she attempts to avenge her son’s death by attacking Heorot Hall. She manages to kill a man , but she realizes the strength and power of the Geatish warriors so she retreats to her lair , a cave underneath the lake filled with sea monsters. Beowulf follows her and finally kills her. The fifty foot dragon is the last antagonist ; all the antagonist are against Beowulf showing that the universal theme is ‘good vs. evil. ’ King Hrothgar , is the old king of the Danes ; back the in days , King Hrothgar was a mighty warrior.
Many years earlier, Hrothgar paid money to the Wulfings to resolve a blood feud they had with Ecgtheow, Beowulf’s father. As a result, Beowulf feels some loyalty toward Hrothgar. King Hrothgar is Beowulf’s Guide Mentor. Unferth, a warrior in the tribe of the Spear-Danes, challenges Beowulf’s boasts and claims about himself. When Beowulf up to fight Grendel , Unferth tells a story about Beowulf , saying that Beowulf lost a swimming race against Breca ,Beowulf’s childhood friend. Beowulf stands up for himself , saying that Unferth hasn’t killed Grendel therefore Unferth has no right to boast about himself . The fact is, Unferth, if you were truly as keen and courageous as you claim to be Grendel would never have got away with such unchecked atrocity. ” (590-593) Beowulf remind Unferth that he killed his own brothers , “You killed your own kith and kin” (587), and this sin is the worst one can commit because then loyalty and trust between tribes and families was as important as breathing. Unferth is a foil ; foil is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight particular qualities of the other character.
Unferth is everything Beowulf is not . Wiglaf is a young Geatish warrior in Beowulf’s retinue who follows him to the barrow where the dragon is lurking. It is only with Wiglaf’s help that Beowulf is able to defeat the dragon. As Beowulf is dying, he gives his golden necklace, called a torque, to Wiglaf, symbolizing the transfer of power from the dying king to his chosen successor. Wiglaf represents courage and loyalty in the face of unbelievable odds.. Wiglaf is the one who lives to tell the tale and to make sure that Beowulf’s fame lives on.