During the Spring of 2011, I took a British Literature survey course which covered a vast amount of literature. One of the requirements of the course was to write responses to selections from our readings to show that we read the material and thought about it. I hope you enjoy these responses and find them enlightening, entertaining, and interesting.
During the pages of 33-49, I noticed several key themes that reappear throughout the work and in other similar works. Throughout Beowulf, there is a significant religious narration, a narration which interprets or predicts the events through the eyes of a definite Christian scribe. I felt this to be rather ironic since the people of the poem were pagans. Knowledge of the Bible and the prophecies are presented in the discussion of Grendel’s ancestry and purpose. The second theme which is common throughout the poem is the usage of descriptors (most of them kennings) which are made with hyphens. Words like: “whale-beasts”, “hard-ringed”, “treasure-giver”, “mead-hall”, “war-loom”, “cloud-murk”, etc are heavily daubed between the alliterative verse (42-45).
While reading pages 58-66 of Beowulf, I found some very interesting observations with the use of alliterative verse. Unfortunately, the modern English translation does not completely capture the full alliterations and thus they are less frequent than in the original text. However, in the places that are alliterative , there are some noticeable patterns. The most common sequence is a double phonetic or alliterative rhyme: “…brother with a sword. Branded an outlaw…” (58). I noticed that double alliterations never fall, at least in Modern English, on every fifth line. Instead they are interspaced between every fifth line in random intervals. Moreover, triple alliterations always follow a double alliterative line: “…brother with a sword. Branded an outlaw…marked by having murdered, he moved into the wilds,” (58). Such patterns continue throughout the poem.