Is Beowulf an Epic?
- Epic: long narrative poem celebrating the great deeds of a hero of the legendary past, written in a formal and ceremonious style.
- Homer's Iliad and Odyssey:primary epics
- Virgil's Aeneid, Milton's Paradise Lost:secondary epics
- Note: no equivalent of the word "epic" in Old English
The Three Monster Fights
- Significant and progressive differences between them
- The third enemy: the wyrm (dragon) or fyrdraca (firedrake)
- The failure of the comitatus
- Beowulf as hero king and the poet's interest in what constitutes a good king
- Compare Hrothgar/Hygelac/Beowulf
The Death of Beowulf
- The role of circumstance vs. the role of willed agency in Beowulf's demise (forces from without, forces from within)
- Going it alone (Old English, oferhogode or scorned): B "scorned" to seek out the enemy with a large troop of men; also, the Old English oferhygd, or pride, arrogance
Mix of Genres and Modes in Epic
- Tragic and elegiac elements in Beowulf.
- Elegy: a song of mourning.
- In Beowulf, "The Last Survivor" who buries the treasure; compare to the Old English lyric elegy "The Wanderer."
- Role of historical process and circumstance in Beowulf.
- Fall of Beowulf linked to doom of Geatish people by way of historical events of the past.
- Is it History that plays the role of Fate, Wyrd?
Final Lines of the Poem
What consolations does the poem offer? Does it offer any Christian consolation?
Last lines of the poem in original Old English:
cwaedon thaet he waere || wyruldcyninga
they said that he was || among kings of this world
manna mildust || ond monthwaerust,
the mildest of men || and the kindest
leodum lithost || ond lofgeornest
the gentlest to his people || and the most eager for fame
Emphasis on the survival of the hero in the praise songs that record his fame (like Beowulf itself), with a final focus on the creation of such a praise song at the funeral.BARROW = burial mound
And Don't Forget ....
The Sutton Hoo ship burial