A prominent stylistic feature in the poem Beowulf is the number and length of digressions. “Much of the controversy surrounding the poet’s digressiveness has arisen from the fact that we have not yet discovered or admitted why he digresses in the first place” (Tripp 63). In this essay we hope to help answer that question.
The longest digression, almost 100 verses, is the story of Finn, which is here explored. In “The Finn Episode and Revenge in Beowulf” Martin Camargo states:
The allusive manner of its telling has long taxed the abilities of philologists to determine the precise sense of the lines, while its position within the narrative has challenged the ingenuity of a growing number of critics who have sought to establish (or to question) its relevance. . . .(112)
The Finn Episode begins with Hrothgar’s scop:
the harp was plucked, good verses chanted
when Hrothgar’s scop in his place on the mead-bench
came to tell over the famous hall-sport
[about] Finn’s sons when the attack came on them:
Hnaef of the Scyldings, hero of the Half-Danes,
had had to fall in Frisian slaughter (1065-70)
We learn here that the scop is singing about a Danish hero, Hnaef, and his band of warriors who are attacked by the Frisians/Jutes, a tribe that lived on the European coast directly opposite the British Isle. In other words, the Finnsburh Episode presents the sudden, abrupt stoppage of the peaceful existence of the Danes. This story is told by the scop right …
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…ork, Robert E. “Digressions and Episodes.” In A Beowulf Handbook, edited by Robert Bjork and John D. Niles. Lincoln, Nebraska: Uiversity of Nebraska Press, 1997.
Camargo, Martin. “The Finn Episode and Revenge in Beowulf.” In Readings on Beowulf, edited by Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,1998.
Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977.
Greenfield, Stanley B.. “The Finn Episode and its Parallet.” In Beowulf: The Donaldson Translation, edited by Joseph F. Tuso. New York, W.W.Norton and Co.: 1975.
Tripp, Raymond P. “Digressive Revaluation(s).” In Beowulf – Modern Critical Interpretations, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
Wright, David. “The Digressions in Beowulf.” In Readings on Beowulf, edited by Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,1998.
Epic of Beowulf Essay – Symbols and Symbolism of Battle
Symbolism of Battle in Beowulf
Beowulf Authors often use events and things to symbolize stages in someone’s life. Symbolism is the practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing meaning of significance to objects, events, or relationships. In the anonymous epic, Beowulf, Beowulf fights Grendel, the monsters of the ocean and Grendel’s mother. Beowulf’s battles with theses three evils symbolize the youth and adulthood of Beowulf’s life.
The battle with Grendel represents the youth of Beowulf’s life. The typical youth is very brave and fights for fame. Beowulf shows how the battle with Grendel is a representation of the youth of Beowulf’s life by going to Hrothgar and asking him if he can fight Grendel for him and his people. Beowulf shows this trait when he says,
Grant me, then, lord and protector of this noble place, a single request! I have come so far, oh shelter of warriors and your people’s loved friend, that this one favor you should not refuse me. That I, alone and with the help of my men, may purge all evil from this Hell. (Beowulf page #).
Another trait that a typical youth has is that they don’t want to be outwitted. They also don’t want people to think poorly of them. Beowulf shows this when he hears that Grendel does not use any weapons to fight and so Beowulf says that he will not use any weapons because he wants Higlac to think worthy of him. Beowulf shows this trait when he says,
I have heard, too, that the monster’s scorn of men is so great that he needs no weapons and fears none. Now will I. My lord Higlac might think less of me if I let my sword go where my feet were afraid to, if I hid behind some broad linden shield: my hands alone shall fight for me, struggle for life against the monster (Beowulf page #).
The typical youth likes to brag about what they have done. Beowulf shows this third trait when he brags to Hrothgar about how he swam all the way over and killed all the monsters in the ocean. This is seen when Beowulf says, “I swam in the Blackness of night, hunting monsters out of the ocean, and killing them one by one; death was my errand and the fate they had earned” (Beowulf page #).