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What were some of the literary elements used in "Beowulf"?  Indicate the...

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zetnahc | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 4, 2008 at 8:05 AM via web

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What were some of the literary elements used in "Beowulf"?  Indicate the lines numbers in which they occur.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 5, 2008 at 1:08 AM (Answer #1)

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Three typical literary elements that readers identify in Anglo-Saxon literature are:  kennings, alliteration, and caesuras.  Kennings are phrases which are used in place of the thing they represent in order to serve as a memory device for the poet.  For example, "bling-bling" is a modern Kenning for "shiny jewelry". Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in a line of poetry.  It serves the poem for rhythm and sometimes for tone or mood. Caesuras are breaks in the line of poetry, and are not usually found outside of Anglo-Saxon literature.  It serves as the unifying element in Anglo-Saxon poetry instead of rhyme.

Examples of Kennings in the poem are abundant.  Some of them include "shepherd of evil, guardian of crime" line 432  and "that sin-stained demon" line 483 which refers to Grendel; "that mighty protector of men" line 472 referring to Beowulf.

Alliteration examples include, "He slipped through the door and there in the silence snatched up thirty men, smashed them..." line 36-37.  Generally, there should be two or more words with the same consonant sound repeated to be considered alliteration.

Caesura examples include, "Swaddled in flames, it came gliding and flexing and racing toward its fate" lines 719-720.  The pause is in the middle of the line, indicated by a natural break in the language and also a comma. 

 

 

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