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"He'd keep that peace. My tongue grows heavy, and my heart, when I try to tell you what...

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reedcapps | Student, Grade 10 | Honors

Posted September 20, 2013 at 12:30 AM via web

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"He'd keep that peace. My tongue grows heavy, and my heart, when I try to tell you what Grendel has brought us, the damage he's done, here in this hall. You see for yourself how much smaller...."

As Hrothgar begins to speak about Grendel in the lines above, his tone, or his attitude toward his subject, becomes bleak and despairing. What repeated sounds does the poet use to suggest this tone in Beowulf?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 20, 2013 at 5:12 AM (Answer #1)

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As Hrothgar speaks with Beowulf about the powerful monster Grendel who terrorizes Herot, the poet employs alliteration, the repetition of initial consonant sounds, as well as consonance, the repetition of consonant sounds in stressed syllables containing dissimilar vowel sounds. Here is one example with the /w/:

What grief in Heorot Grendel hath caused me,
What horror unlooked-for, by hatred unceasing.
Waned is my war-band, wasted my hall-troop;
Weird hath offcast them to the clutches of Grendel. (VII,19-22)

In the following lines, "The" is repeated three times, recreating the barrage of strikes which Grendel made upon Hrothgar's men,  

A grapple with Grendel, with grimmest of edges.
Then this mead-hall at morning with murder was reeking,
The building was bloody at breaking of daylight,
The bench-deals all flooded, dripping and bloodied,
The folk-hall was gory: I had fewer retainers,
Dear-beloved warriors, whom death had laid hold of. (Vii, 27-33)
 
In addition, there is the repetition of /g/, /m/, /b/, /d/, and /w/  
[/d /=the sound that the cosonant d makes]
 
The alliteration also hurries these lines, generating a speed which creates the sense of urgency and the horror of what has happened. The recurring /b/ creates a sense of battle and being attacked since the consonant itself "blasts" sound. And, the repetition of the pattern of sentences also speeds the verse and connotes the repeated pattern of Grendel's killings. The despairing tones are generated by the repetitious lines which suggest the repeated attacks upon the inhabitants of Herot that the warriors of Hrothgar are unable to rebuff.
Certainly, Hrothgar is distraught over the loss of many of the noblemen of Herot Halls, and he feels that he is cursed with Grendel's presence. Beowulf, then, assures Hrothgar that he will kill the monster. 

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