Beowulf’s OriginsComposed anywhere from the eighthto eleventhcentury.Composed in oral tradition of poetry.Filled with biblical allusions to the Old Testament.Influences by Germanic and Old Norse myth and legend.
Plays on the same concept of epic poetry and the epic hero. So what is poetry?Epic poetry is a long, narrative poem, written in an elevated style, which celebrates the deeds of a legendary hero or god.Epic hero is a superhuman hero or god of an epic.
Literary DevicesBeowulf is noted especially for other literary devices:AlliterationAllusionEpithetForeshadowingKenning
Alliteration the use of repeated consonants/ stressed syllables, especially at the beginning of words.Allusion reference to a literary or historical person, place, or event or another literary work. Epithet a word or phrase used to describe a persons attribute. Ex. “Lord of all Life”Foreshadowing hinting at future events to come in the story.Kenning a two-word metaphorical name for something, such as “sea-road” for ocean.
Anglo-Saxon tradition involved a scop. Scops were bothcomposers and storytellers who traveled from court to court — the entertainers of Anglo-Saxon times.
Comitatus and WergildThe Germanic code of loyalty. Thanes, or warriors, swore loyalty to their king, for whom they fought and whom they protected.Wergild is a “man-payment.” Practice of paying a slain man’s family to atone for the deed and to prevent them from taking revenge against the manslayer.
Beowulf in a NutshellSince its publication and translation two centuries ago, Beowulfhas captured the attention of scholars and audiences alike, becoming a keystone of English literary studies as well as the basis of several popular film and TV adaptations.Tolkien also used many elements from Beowulfas inspiration for his famous "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
Did You Know?In 1939, excavations at Sutton Hoo (in Suffolk, England) uncovered a royal treasure-filled ship buried in the seventh century—not long before Beowulf was composed.