The Plot and Style of Beowulf
Beowulf’s plot is complex and there were two stories that branched off. The first one was Hrothgar’s ancestors and family and the second one is the story sung by the court poet after Beowulf defeated Grendel. The movement of the plot was rapid, the epic is short and many things happen in one chapter. The plot is linear, it started with Grendel, who hunts Herot and ends with Beowulf returning to his home and battling a dragon. It doesn’t employ suspense by breaking the action at a critical point, it was always focused on the battles and no flashbacks occurred while the battles are occurring.
The plot is improbable, there was a demon Grendel and his mother, a dragon, and Beowulf whose strength is inhuman. The inciting forces include the joy in the mead-hall, Herot, which angered Grendel, and the thief who stole a gem-studded cup from the dragon. The turning point of the epic was when Beowulf had went home in Geatland and had to defeat a dragon, his hardest challenge yet. It is a “closed” plot because it was focused on Beowulf and he dies at the end. The sequel of the story is unlikely as it is an old epic. The basic conflict of the story is Man vs.
Supernatural because of Grendel’s attacks at Herot and Beowulf’s actions to defeat these demons and the dragon. There is another conflict which was Man vs. Society. This one was Unferth’s who hates and gets angry at anyone that had ever acquired glory and fame greater than his own. The basic conflict was solved because Beowulf had heard Hrothgar’s problems and he decided to solve it for him. When Beowulf was home, he also defeated the dragon with Wiglaf. However, this lead to his death. Style Author’s general style is that it was written as an epic.
It had 3182 lines. The style had individuality because the author used a lot of kennings which gave in-depth meaning to the words. Kennings are poetic synonyms found in Germanic poems. Examples include ring-locked, ring-giver, wolf-dens, swift-moving, and far-off. The epic’s sentences are long. For example: And more: the lord of Herot ordered / Treasure-gifts for each of the Geats / Who’s sailed with Beowulf and still sat beside him, / Ancient armor and swords – and for the one / Murdered by Grendel gold was carefully / Paid. … (“Beowulf” 1050-1055).
Another example would be: They walked quickly, happily across / Roads all of them remembered, left / The lake and the cliffs alongside it, brave men / Staggering under the weight of Grendel’s skull, / Too heavy for fewer than four of them to handle / Yet proud of their ugly load and determined / That the Danes, seated in Herot, should see it (1633-1639). The epic did not have much dialogues, it is mostly narrated. The author did make an epigram and it stated: “Let your sorrow end! It is better for us all / To avenge our friends, not mourn them forever(1835-1385) This has a lot of meaning and it teaches us to accept our fate and live with it.
We must also learn to stick to the present and the future. As Lao Tzu, a philosopher, said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present”. There were some unfamiliar words like gable, reprisal, writhing, and graybeards. A gable means “the triangular portion of a wall between the edges of a dual pitched roof. ” Reprisal means “the act of retaliation. ” Writing means “the act of making continual twisting, squirming movements or contortions of the body”. Graybeard means “an old man”.
The epic author mentions biblical characters such as Cain, Abel, and God. The dialogue doesn’t really seem natural because it is only a translation and the characters are Anglo-Saxons. The author did use a figures of speech like personification, onomatopoeia, and assonance. Here are examples of personifications : To begin, for flames to leap as high (84) and: But leave your battle-shields here, and your spears, / Let them lie waiting for the promises your word / May make (396-397). ” Here is an example of onomatopoeia: Glittering, silver-shining links / Clanking an iron song as they came. 322-323).
Here is an example of assonance: Now he discovered – once the afflictor / Of men, tormentor of their days – what it meant (809-810) The author does employ foreshadowing of Beowulf’s death by describing Shild’s death rituals. The author also hinted that Beowulf would become king by giving him characteristics of a hero. The author introduces the Anglo-Saxons’ local color by showing their patriarchal society and their importance of glory. This was shown when guards would usually ask for your name and your father’s name.