Old English poem, circa eighth century. See also Beowulf Poetry Criticism.
Hailed as the first major poem in English literature, Beowulf relates the adventures of its Scandinavian hero, at the same time presenting a detailed description of the life and mood of the age during which it was written. Little is known for certain regarding the author, the date, motivation, or method of the poem's composition. Modern critics continue to debate such issues, focusing on the Christian and pagan elements of the poem, its concern with heroic values, and its formulaic structure. The question of whether the poem's composition was contemporary with the creation of the only known manuscript is also a hotly debated issue among scholars.
The original Beowulf manuscript dates from 975 to 1000, and is included in a volume containing a total of five works in Old English. Basing this view on historical, linguistic, and stylistic evidence, many critics agree that the poem was composed in the eighth, or perhaps the ninth century, with the extant manuscript representing a later version of the poem. It has also been suggested that a written version may predate the eighth-century poem, with a possible composition date of 685 to 725, and that an oral version of the poem may have been composed even earlier. In 1731, after joining the manuscript collection of Sir Robert Cotton, the Beowulf manuscript was damaged in a fire. A gradual deterioration of letters and words began, although it was stemmed in the nineteenth century. Two transcriptions were made from the manuscript in 1786-87 by Icelander Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin, and are considered invaluable, as they capture portions of the text later lost. These transcriptions served as the basis of the first printed edition of Beowulf and are incorporated in modern versions of the poem.
Plot and Major Characters
Although the narrative of Beowulf is not linear and contains long digressions concerning Geatish and Danish history, the plot of the poem is easily summarized. Beowulf, nephew to the King of the Geats, Hygelac, learns that a monster known as Grendel regularly raids Heorot, the Danish hall of King Hrothgar. Along with his men, Beowulf travels by sea to Denmark in order to rid the land of the dangerous beast Grendel. Beowulf succeeds, but Grendel's mother then resumes her offspring's attacks on the Danes. After traveling to the monster's underwater lair, Beowulf slays Grendel's mother and is generously rewarded with Danish treasure and acclaim. He then returns to the court of King Hygelac, goes to war with the Geats, and is eventually made king. Having served fifty years as the Geatish ruler, Beowulf defends the Geats from the attacks of a firedrake. Abandoned by his men, Beowulf nevertheless pursues the dragon, finally killing it with the help of his loyal retainer, Wiglaf. Beowulf discovers the dragon's treasure, then dies of his wounds. His people raise a funeral pyre, and the poem ends with the praising of the hero.
Scholars have identified numerous themes in Beowulf, many related to the portrayal of the Germanic comitatus relationship, a code of social behavior stressing the reciprocity enjoyed between a lord and his thanes. In return for protection provided by the lord, the thanes owe service and loyalty. Such themes as order versus chaos and reward and revenge are dramatized through the depiction of this relationship. The role of the monsters also underscores the poet's emphasis on the theme of good versus evil. Other thematic concerns include the role of women in kinship bonds, the use of treasure as a societal bond, the function of the narrator in poem, the nature of heroism and social responsibility, and the purpose of the quest motif.
A number of questions surrounding the composition of Beowulf still inspire modern critical debate. Paull F. Baum examines several of these issues, arguing that the manuscript's date being so much later than the original composition, combined with the fact that the manuscript is written in a different dialect from the original, indicate that the poem lacks a continuous history of reading or recitation. Furthermore, while many believe that Beowulf was recited rather than read, the poem's length makes this assumption unlikely. Baum insists that the evidence suggests a poem composed for the enjoyment of its author, with the expectation that others might also take pleasure in it. While many scholars, including Baum, hold that the poem was composed much earlier than the date of the manuscript, others contend that the manuscript and the poem's composition are contemporaneous. Kevin S. Kiernan makes this argument, citing historical and linguistic evidence for his assertion that both the poem and the manuscript were created in the early eleventh century. Another issue surrounding the poem's composition is the method by which it was created. Some critics maintain that the original poem was an oral composition, while others believe that it made its first appearance in written form. Alain Renoir has studied the motifs of Beowulf, including the underwater fight and the monster's attack on a human dwelling, demonstrating that the poet's use of these devices shows that he was familiar with the traditional methods of oral-formulaic composition. Renoir stresses that this familiarity does not necessarily indicate that the poem was composed orally. J. D. A. Ogilvy similarly comments that it is improbable that Beowulf—as a whole, or even in smaller units—was composed orally. Stephen S. Evans, on the other hand, asserts that an oral form (dating from 685 to 725) of the poem preceded a written version. The original pagan poem was extensively modified, Evans argues, by Christian oral poets sometime between 625 and 700 in order to create a work better suited to a Christian audience.
Like Evans, many critics have explored the Christian aspects of the poem, particularly the juxtaposition of Christian and pagan elements. Larry D. Benson notes that although some critics appear certain that Beowulf is the work of a Christian author, rather than a pagan work later modified by a Christian scribe, the question is far from settled. The pagan elements of the poem, including Beowulf's funeral ship, the observance of omens, and the practice of cremation, seem to create an inconsistent tone in the poem. Benson maintains that this apparent contradiction stems from modern assumptions about the poet's attitude toward paganism. The Christian Englishmen of the time, assures Benson, viewed the Germanic pagan with interest, and the sympathetic treatment of the pagan values in Beowulf provides a framework that allowed the Christian to admire the pagan. Likewise, Stanley B. Greenfield suggests that the Christian author of Beowulf viewed the poem's heroic world with kindness and sympathy and even lauded the ethical and social values of that world. Greenfield feels that Beowulf and his world are presented as flawed in an effort to humanize them and elicit a more emotional response from the audience. Margaret E. Goldsmith takes a different approach in explaining the coexistence of Christian and pagan symbols in the poem, contending that the poet was cognizant of the ambivalence of the symbolism used, especially Heorot and the treasure. The great hall and the treasure seem to embody grandeur and wealth, the hero's reward, while to the Christian audience they exemplify man's pride and are to be viewed as costly and worthless. Bernard Felix Huppé similarly emphasizes the poem's Christian message, maintaining that Beowulf may have been used as a Christian apologetic, highlighting the error of English ancestral ways.
While some critics continue to be interested in the Christian attitudes of the poem and the poet's possible motivation, others focus on the style and structure of the poem. Eric Gerald Stanley praises the poet's vocabulary, word choice, and manipulation of complex sentences. In Stanley's view, Beowulf's superiority rests on the “concord between the poet's mode of thinking and his mode of expression.” John Leyerle studies the poem as a poetic analogue to Anglo-Saxon art–characterized by interlace designwork notable for its complexity– contemporary with the poem's composition. Leyerle marshals ample evidence to demonstrate that interlace designs had stylistic and structural literary parallels in England, and argues that the function of various episodes in Beowulf becomes apparent only when the likelihood of analogous design is accepted. The themes of the poem, argues Leyerle, are threaded together to form an intricate interlace that cannot be undone without losing the design of the whole poem. Like Leyerle, Kathryn Hume recognizes the poem's interlace structure and suggests that this structure supports the creation of moral and thematic juxtapositions, rather than a simple heroic narrative. J. D. A. Ogilvy analyzes the formulaic structure of the poem, noting in particular the use of traditional epithets and phrases, its sentence formula, its use of larger rhetorical patterns, and the formulaic elaboration of the poem's various themes.
Beowulf, the Oldest English Epic (translated by Charles W. Kennedy) 1940
Beowulf: A Verse Translation into Modern English (translated by Edwin Morgan) 1952
Beowulf (translated by David Wright) 1957
Beowulf (translated by Burton Raffel) 1963
Beowulf: A New Translation (translated by E. Talbot Donaldson) 1966
Beowulf (translated by Mark Alexander) 1973
Beowulf: A Dual Language Edition (translated by Howell D. Chickering, Jr.) 1977
Beowulf (translated by Albert W. Haley) 1978
Beowulf: A Verse Translation with Treasures of the Ancient North (translated by Marijane Osborn) 1983
Beowulf (translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland) 1984
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation (translated by Seamus Heaney) 2000
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SOURCE: “The Beowulf Poet,” in Philological Quarterly, Vol. XXXIX, No. 4, October, 1960, pp. 389-99.
[In the essay below, Baum explores the possible audience for which Beowulf was composed and argues that internal evidence suggests the poet intended to create a “quasi-heroic” poem for his own enjoyment, with the hope that others might also be pleased with his work.]
Some years ago (1936) Professor Tolkien, in his British Academy lecture, created an academic stir with his complaints that the scholars had been too busy about their own concerns and had neglected the criticism of Beowulf as a poem.1 Latterly, Miss Whitelock (1951) attempted to recreate the ‘audience’ of Beowulf in the interests of bringing forward its date from the early to the late eighth century.2 Though the two subjects are not closely related, one may be used to throw light on the other.
Tolkien was attacked and defended, but the questions are still open—and little wonder, for the critical handicaps are forbidding. The language of the poem is difficult, partly owing to the state of the text and partly because the poet chose to make it so. Very few, even of the specialists, can pretend to such a feeling for style as we bring to the appreciation of later English poets; and the others are dependent on translations of uncertain merit and fidelity. Knowing so...
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SOURCE: “Beowulf,” in Continuations and Beginnings: Studies in Old English Literature, edited by Eric Gerald Stanley, Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., 1966, pp. 104-41.
[In the essay below, Stanley offers an overview of the poem's style and imagery, and attempts to discern the way in which Anglo-Saxons may have regarded Beowulf.]
We have no traditional approach to Beowulf.1 We are entirely ignorant of the author's intentions except for what we may claim to be able to infer from the poem itself. Even the subject and the form of the poem are in doubt; words like epic and elegy are applied to it, epic because it is heroic, early and fairly long, and elegy because it commemorates and mourns men who were honoured in their generations and were the glory of their times. Some have seen the poem in its entirety as an exemplum in illustration of Hrothgar's great ‘sermon’ (lines 1700-84); others have held that the poem celebrates a dynasty of kings, gloriously founded by Beowulf son of Ecgtheow, a Wægmunding like his successor Wiglaf, whose nobility of purpose was, as the poet tells us (lines 2600f.), such that nothing could make him turn aside the claims of kinship.
We are ignorant of the reception the poem had among the Anglo-Saxons, how widely it was known or how highly it was regarded. Those modern readers who see in Beowulf the personification of...
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SOURCE: “The Interlace Structure of Beowulf,” in University of Toronto Quarterly, Vol. XXXVII, No. 1, October, 1967, pp. 1-17.
[In the following essay, Leyerle argues that the structure of Beowulf is analogous to the patterns of interlace decorative art common in Anglo-Saxon art of the seventh and eighth centuries. When the likelihood of this parallel is accepted, Leyerle states, the function of otherwise confusing episodes of the poem becomes apparent.]
In the time since Norman Garmonsway [On February 28, 1967, Norman Garmonsway, Visiting Professor of English at University College in the University of Toronto, died suddenly. This paper, in a slightly different form, was read on March 30 in West Hall of the College in place of a lecture on Canute that Professor Garmonsway was to have delivered on that day.] died I have reflected about what I could say that would not embarrass the spirit of the man I wish to honour. He was reticent about himself and I shall be brief. I rarely heard him refer to his distinguished career at King's College, London, for when he spoke of his work, it was always of what lay ahead. His characteristic manner was understatement, like that of the early literature of the north that he knew so well and loved. He was a man who preferred to listen rather than to talk, but he was quick to praise and encourage. He had the virtues of Chaucer's Clerk of Oxenford mixed...
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SOURCE: “The Pagan Coloring of Beowulf,” in Contradictions: From “Beowulf” to Chaucer; Selected Studies of Larry D. Benson, edited by Theodore M. Andersson and Stephen A. Barney, Scolar Press, 1995, pp. 15-31.
[In the essay below, originally written in 1967, Benson studies the apparent conflict in Beowulf between Christian and pagan elements, observing that modern assumptions concerning the attitude of the Christian poet and his audience toward paganism are incorrect. Benson goes on to argue that understanding the relationship between Christian Englishmen and Germanic pagans allows us to view the poem as a framework within which Christians could contemplate the idea of the “good pagan.”]
The old theory that Beowulf is an essentially pagan work only slightly colored with the Christianity of a later scribe has now been dead for many years, and critics today generally agree that the poem is the unified work of a Christian author.1 Indeed, most of the elements in Beowulf that once supplied arguments for its essential paganism—the function of Wyrd, the emphasis on the comitatus, the duty of revenge—are now recognized not as pagan but as secular values that were easily incorporated into the framework of Anglo-Saxon Christianity.2 Likewise, though the stories of Beowulf and the monsters probably originated in pagan times, it is now generally...
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SOURCE: “The Marriage of Traditions in Beowulf: Secular Symbolism and Religious Allegory,” in The Mode and Meaning of “Beowulf,” The Athlone Press, 1970, pp. 60-96.
[In the essay that follows, Goldsmith examines the ways in which the influence of Christianity accounted for a shift in the function of heroic poetry and altered the meaning of the secular symbols traditionally used in heroic poetry generally, and in Beowulfin particular.]
My attention has so far been given to the Christian climate of thought revealed in writings made in religious centres in early Anglo-Saxon England. It is now time to consider what kinds of poetic expression and what theories of the nature of poetry could have been at the disposal of the maker of Beowulf, and how far these were compatible with the attitudes inculcated in the Latin learning of the schools.
It must be admitted from the start that all statements made about native Germanic poetry anterior to Beowulf are inferential. The ‘Germanic heroic epic’ is an academic construct, since there are no direct, and, what is more important, no uncontaminated sources of information about pagan oral poetry. Of early evidence, there is the brief mention by Tacitus of the carmina antiqua which served as oral historical records among the Germani, and the battle-songs of ‘Hercules’ which they chanted before...
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SOURCE: “Hero with Monsters,” in Kings, Beasts, and Heroes, Oxford University Press, 1972, pp. 3-26.
[In the essay below, Jones investigates the folklore motifs which support the epical and heroic nature of Beowulf.]
The old english poem Beowulf is one of the most precious relics of the early literature of England, and justly prized for a number and variety of reasons. For a start it is unique, in that no other poem of its size and kind has survived either in Old English or in the other Germanic literary languages to which English is related. Had it somewhere in its manuscript history succumbed to those perils of age, neglect, and fire to which we know it has been exposed, we should be left to speculate whether in fact the poets of any branch of the Germanic people were capable of composing a long sustained poem on a theme drawn from the world of pre-Christian Germanic tradition. In the light of such phenomena as the Sigurd lays of the Poetic Edda, the Latin Waltharius, the upturned horn of story which is Saxo's Danish History, and the Christian witness of the Old English Andreas, we might assume that they were, yet always be uneasy in the assumption. So the manuscript in which Beowulf is preserved, British Museum, Cotton Vitellius A 15, is a primary document not only for the English, but for the Germans, the Scandinavians, and their descendants in the New World as in the...
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SOURCE: “Revenge and Reward as Recurrent Motives in Beowulf,” in Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, Vol. LXXIV, No. 2, 1973, pp. 193-213.
[In the essay below, Liggins argues that the pattern of reference to vengeance and reward—both earthly and divine—in Beowulf emphasizes the poem's sense of order. She stresses however, that there is a dearth of evidence indicating that the poet intended to convey this sense of order. Rather, the poet's interest in the “duty of vengeance” imbues the poem with an internal orderliness.]
In the Introduction to his edition of Beowulf, C. L. Wrenn discusses the parallels between the Finn Episode and the tale of Ingeld, of which one is that”they both treat of the supreme necessity of vengeance for a slain leader to be taken by a faithful member of his comitatus”,1 and he also suggests that one purpose of the Finn Episode may be to illustrate”the great Germanic duty of vengeance for a slain leader of one's comitatus” which”is not at all fully illustrated by the events of the hero's life dealt with in Beowulf”.2
The treatment of vengeance in these two episodes is very powerful, both within the scope of each tale itself and in its bearing on the poem as a whole. The opening lines of the Finn Episode are not concerned with the moral duty of vengeance, but they pick out the other...
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SOURCE: “Beowulf and the World of Heroic Elegy,” in Leeds Studies in English, Vol. 8, 1975, pp. 45-75.
[In the essay that follows, Grant asserts that Beowulf cannot be viewed as an entirely Christian poem because it also embraces pagan values, and it is by these values that Beowulf is ultimately judged. The fact that the poet finds these values inadequate, Grant states, generates the elegiac tone of the poem.]
Beowulf has justifiably attracted much critical opinion, some of which is valuable, some irrelevant, some absorbing, some tedious. I should like now to give some further reconsideration to the poem itself as it survives in BM MS Cotton Vitellius A. xv. I propose to discuss the text as a unified work of art by one poet and with a Christian colouring which is no mere interpolation. By “the poet” I mean the author who gave the poem its present form and heroico-elegiac tone.
The excavations at Sutton Hoo in 1939 and the subsequent work of numismatists dated the ship-burial as about 650-60 ad (although following re-excavation the current dating is somewhat earlier, around 625-30),1 and this strengthened the impression that the poem was written in the age of Bede (c. 672-735). Dorothy Whitelock2 has shown that Lawrence, Tolkien, Chambers, Klaeber and Girvan all argue for a date around 700; she herself, however, argues persuasively that...
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SOURCE: “The Theme and Structure of Beowulf,” in Studies in Philology, Vol. LXXII, No. 1, January, 1975, pp. 1-27.
[In the following essay, Hume maintains that Beowulf's construction emphasizes the author's concern with theme, rather than with the hero or the action. The major thematic issue of the poem, Hume states, is the threat to social order.]
What is Beowulf about? Ever since Turner, Conybeare, and Grundtvig impressed Beowulf's name on this titleless poem, the natural answer has been “Beowulf, the hero.” This assumption, so simple and inevitable as to be almost unconscious, lies behind most subsequent criticism, and is responsible for much that makes it contradictory and unsatisfactory. Actually, the author's handling of Beowulf and his selection of events neither suggest nor suit a hero-centered design.
No Heldenleben could overlook the steps in the edwenden from sleac, unfrom youth to monster queller; at the very least we might expect to be told as much about the transformation as appears in Viga-Glum's Saga. The author could hardly fail to make much of the rise to kingship, particularly since it was complicated by moral dilemmas concerning Heardred and Onela of a sort which would have delighted later saga writers. An ordinary celebration of a hero would probably have dilated upon the vengeance...
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SOURCE: An Introduction to “Beowulf” and the “Beowulf” Manuscript, Rutgers University Press, 1981, pp. 3-12.
[In the essay below, Kiernan reviews historical and linguistic evidence which he contends indicates that Beowulf is contemporary with the extant manuscript.]
It may well be surprising that a study of Beowulf in conjunction with its unique ms represents a radical departure from all previous approaches to the poem. In fact, the Beowulf ms has scarcely been studied at all. It still holds a wealth of undiscovered paleographical and codicological evidence, which, under ordinary circumstances, textual scholars would have uncovered and weighed long ago, as a matter of course, for the purpose of founding a reliable text. This evidence has remained safely hidden away because most editors of the poem have relied on photographic fss of the ms, and, often enough, modern transcriptions of the fss, rather than on the ms itself. Their tacit justification for this decidedly unorthodox procedure is that the ms cannot possibly hold any relevant textual evidence that fss would not show as well. For, however variegated and contentious Beowulf studies are in all other respects, there was until very recently complete unanimity in the view that Beowulf is an early Anglo-Saxon poem preserved in a late Anglo-Saxon ms. The chronological gulf between the poem and the ms is usually...
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SOURCE: “The Formulaic Style of Beowulf,” in Rereading “Beowulf”: An Introduction to the Poem, Its Background, and Its Style, edited by J. D. A. Ogilvy and Donald C. Baker, University of Oklahoma Press, 1983, pp. 137-58.
[In the following essay, Ogilvy surveys the formulaic methods used by Old English poets and examines the ways in which such methods—including the use of traditional epithets and phrases which probably originated in orally composed and transmitted poetry—are utilized in Beowulf.]
The student of Old English poetry will no doubt have remarked the popularity during the past twenty years of “oral-formulaic” studies, especially among American scholars. Beginning with F. P. Magoun's famous article in 1953,1 a growing body of scholarship has attempted to prove that much of Old English poetry, including Beowulf, was composed orally, extemporaneously, from the traditional stock of formulas with which the scop was provided in his word hoard, or poetic vocabulary. The case for oral composition is, at best, not proven. In our opinion it is most improbable that Beowulf was composed orally, even in smaller units, but a scrupulous analysis of the evidence beyond our scope here.2 There can be no doubt, however, that the controversy has been helpful in calling renewed attention of students to the technical characteristics of Beowulf. That...
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SOURCE: “Thematic Polarity,” in The Hero in the Earthly City, State University of New York Press, 1984, pp. 24-45.
[In the essay below, Huppé asserts that the author of Beowulf demonstrates by antithesis the concept of the Christian hero and shows how Beowulf's lack of Christianity reveals the emptiness of his heroic ideals.]
the contrapuntal narrative method of Beowulf demands close attention to the interweaving of the threads that make up the story of the hero. The narrative moves from puzzles to answers which raise further questions. Thus, the poem begins with the puzzle of Scyld and his succession. Although answers are later given, they leave a mystery to be understood only in the realization that Scyld is an agent of destinal or divine purpose, which man cannot comprehend any more than he can the mystery of death. The function of narrative puzzlement, in short, is thematic.2
The epic life of Beowulf unfolds by puzzlement and shadowy recall of the deeds he has done. An ultimate question, however, is not answered. Why does Beowulf, heroically virtuous in death, leave a legacy of worthless gold and a future of unrelieved misery for his people? Although he is the heroic antithesis of Heremod, both leave their people wretched. Why? When Beowulf determines to fight the dragon, why is he filled, not with fear, but with doubt? Why does he have misgivings about...
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SOURCE: “Beowulf and the Judgement of the Righteous,” in Learning and Literature in Anglo-Saxon England, edited by Michael Lapidge and Helmut Gneuss, Cambridge University Press, 1985, pp. 393-407.
[In the following essay, Greenfield maintains that the Christian author of Beowulf viewed the heroic society of the poem sympathetically and recognized the ethical and social values of that world. Furthermore, Greenfield contends, the poet humanized Beowulf—for example, by making his judgement fallible—in order to elicit a more emotional response from the audience.]
When Beowulf utters his last words on earth, the poet comments,
him of hræðre gewat sawol secean soðfæstra dom.(1)
Despite some critical attempts to find these lines ambiguous, they seem to state unequivocally that the hero's soul has found salvation.2 Wiglaf seems equally certain that his lord's soul will find its just reward:
Sie sio bær gearo ædre geæfned, þonne we ut cymen, ond þonne geferian frean userne, leofne mannan, þær he longe sceal on ðæs Waldendes wære geðolian.
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SOURCE: “Oral-Formulaic Context in Beowulf: The Hero on the Beach and the Grendel Episode,” in A Key to Old Poems: The Oral-Formulaic Approach to the Interpretation of West-Germanic Verse, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1988, pp. 107-32.
[In the essay below, Renoir examines the ways in which the author ofBeowulf employed the motifs and formulas of oral composition, maintaining that the use of such devices does not necessarily indicate that the poem was composed orally, but only that the poet was well-versed in the traditional methods of oral-formulaic composition.]
Just as the prominence rightfully granted Beowulf by the literary world has naturally turned that poem into a standard against which much Germanic traditional poetry has been at times mistakenly measured, so it has encouraged the most distinguished Anglo-Saxonists and students of oral-formulaic matters to dissect practically every conceivable aspect of its artistry, language, and background; and the vigor with which the operation has been carried out shows no sign of abating. Within the realm of oral-formulaic studies alone, for example, it was indeed Beowulf that Magoun first examined when he set out to argue the oral-formulaic quality of Old-English narrative poetry;1 it was to Beowulf that Crowne first turned when he needed an instance of the theme of the hero on the beach outside...
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SOURCE: “The Dating of Beowulf,” in The Heroic Poetry of Dark-Age Britain: An Introduction to Its Dating, Composition, and Use as a Historical Source, University Press of America, Inc., 1997, pp. 41-63.
[In the following essay, Evans examines the debate concerning the date of composition of Beowulf and argues that an oral version (probably composed between 685 and 725) of the poem preceded the earliest written version.]
It is with no little trepidation that the present study enters the battle that has raged, and continues to rage, over the dating of Beowulf. It is clear that a wide array of knowledge and expertise from a variety of disciplines has been brought to bear on the question at hand. That the question remains a subject of often intense debate certainly is not attributable to any lack of interest, nor to a dearth of publications. To begin this particular contribution to the long-running debate,1 it is best to start with the manuscript itself.
Beowulf is found in the Nowell Codex,2 the second of two codices that comprise BL MS. Cotton Vitellius A.XV. The Nowell Codex, on folios 94-209 of the manuscript, contains five works in Old English: a homily on St. Christopher (Folios 94-98r), Wonders of the East (98v-106), a “letter” from Alexander the Great to Aristotle (107-131), Beowulf (132-201), and Judith...
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Fry, Donald K. “Beowulf” and “The Fight at Finnsburh”: A Bibliography. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1969, 221 p.
Bibliography including extensive subject classifications, compiler's remarks, and notices of reviews.
Short, Douglas D. “Beowulf” Scholarship: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1980, 353 p.
Bibliography offering detailed annotations and a selection of listings dating from 1705 through 1949, and a more comprehensive listing from 1950 through 1978.
Clark, George. Beowulf. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990, 169 p.
Book-length analysis of the poem, including discussion of the heroic nature of the poem, the battles with monsters, and kingship.
Cox, Betty S. Cruces of “Beowulf.” The Hague: Mouton, 1971, 192 p.
Examination of textual and interpretative issues within the context of the widely-held belief that the poem is a work of art addressed by a Christian poet to a Christian audience.
Earl, James W. “The Necessity of Evil in Beowulf.” South Atlantic Bulletin XLIV, No. 1 (January, 1979): 81-98.
Argues that Grendel functions as an evil creature, but one who serves a positive function in...
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