The Language and Setting of Beowulf
Since Beowulf was written in Old English, any student studying this poem will be helped by learning something of the history of this language, and understanding the basic elements of Old English poetry.
According to most historians, the Anglo-Saxon period began in 449 and ended in 1066 with the Norman conquest. This was a period of 617 years, almost three times longer than America has been a country. From this period, only some 30,000 lines of poetry remain, about the length of a long best seller. Of this number, 3,182 lines comprise the poem Beowulf.
The Anglo-Saxon language reflects a history fraught with conquest and invasion. Prior to 449, there was already a great deal of conflict in the country. The Britons fought with the Celts, the Picts, and the Scots, even before the waves of invasions by the Romans, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. Although the language retained some elements of these myriad cultures, it remained largely Germanic, sharing many aspects of Old High German, the language spoken in the homeland of the invaders.
Even within the Anglo-Saxon culture there was a great deal of diversity. The invaders settled in many kingdoms, separated by geographic boundaries and by the hostile British. Because of the isolation of each of these kingdoms, sound changes and tribal and individual peculiarities flourished in the different dialects. These differences surfaced mainly in the spelling of various...
(The entire section is 2221 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
The Poem (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Once, long ago in Hrothgar’s kingdom, a monster named Grendel roamed the countryside at night. Rising from his marshy home, Grendel would stalk to the hall of the king, where he would seize fifteen of Hrothgar’s sleeping warriors and devour them. Departing, he would gather fifteen more into his huge arms and carry them back to his watery lair. For twelve years this slaughter continues.
Word of the terror spreads. In the land of the Geats, ruled over by Hygelac, lives Beowulf, a man of great strength and bravery. When he hears the tale of Hrothgar’s distress, he sets sail for Denmark to rid the land of its fear. With a company of fourteen men he comes ashore and asks a coast watcher to lead him to Hrothgar’s high hall. There he is feasted in great honor while the mead cup goes around the table. Unferth reminds Beowulf of a swimming contest that Beowulf was said to have lost. Beowulf says only that he has more strength and that he also slaughtered many deadly monsters in the sea. At the close of the feast, Hrothgar and his warriors go to their rest, leaving Beowulf and his band in the hall. Then the awful Grendel comes to the hall and seizes one of the sleeping warriors. He is fated to kill no more that night, for Beowulf without shield or spear seizes the dreaded monster and wrenches off his right arm. Thus maimed, Grendel flees to his marshland home. His bloody arm is hung in Hrothgar’s hall.
The next night Grendel’s mother comes...
(The entire section is 839 words.)
Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Heorot (HEH-oh-rot). Headquarters of the aging Danish ruler Hrothgar. The great timbered hall is elaborately described, for only here can human beings be, within limits, civilized. (The unnamed great hall of the warrior-hero Beowulf’s uncle, King Hygelac of the Geats, resembles Heorot.) A great open hall with smaller divisions, Heorot is adorned with gold. Its approach is by a stone-paved road. It has benches and tables at which the retainers of Hrothgar sit. At night it is lit by torches, and its light reaches out to the surrounding wild. It is only within the king’s hall that court poets can tell and retell the heroic and dreadful tales of the northern peoples, for these tales demand a proper setting for their force and meaning. The stories give the values of the culture, both positively and negatively. They teach about the importance of loyalty and about the consequences of both loyalty and betrayal.
Here the people, or rather the nobles, carry on all the activities of human life; it is where they eat and drink and where many sleep. But it is nevertheless also close to the wild, not only in being made of wood, but in its name, for Heorot means “Hart,” or male deer—a noble animal but still animal. In being wood, like others mentioned in the poem, it can be and will be burned, with great slaughter. The humans who live here can and will be terrible to one another. Moreover, Heorot’s bright lights and noises offend...
(The entire section is 640 words.)
The historical Hygelac died circa 521. The Beowulf manuscript was written about 1000 A.D. In the intervening centuries there was both change and continuity in every area of Anglo-Saxon life. Because we cannot date Beowulf with certainty, we cannot draw specific parallels. We do not know if the society the poet described is the one he or she knew at first hand and projected into the past from his or her present, or if it was a poetic reconstruction, pieced together from memories, older Anglo-Saxon and Latin poetry.
The Origins of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms
The Germanic peoples arrived in Britain over a period of perhaps a century and a half. They did not always arrive in tribal or family groups. They do not seem to have brought their kings with them. Only the Mercian royal family claimed to be descended from a continental king. Certainly groups based on kinship or on loyalty to a military leader—whether one of their own or a Roman-Britain—began to coalesce into proto-kingdoms. The wars between the Geats and the Swedes in Beowulf may represent remembered incidents on the continent. At the same time the wars may represent the continual struggle among the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England.
These areas absorbed one another and Romano-British areas until at the time of the Viking invasions (circa 800) there were three major kingdoms: Mercia, Northumbria, and Wessex, and...
(The entire section is 1041 words.)
Beowulf has an omniscient ("all-knowing") narrator. The narrative voice comments on the character's actions, and knows and is able to report on what they think. The narrator is aware of things—for example, the curse on the dragon's treasure (lines 3066-75)—that are not known to the epic's characters. Beowulf shares this omniscient narration with other epics, such as the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid, but remains subtly different. The narrator of Beowulf makes an explicit connection with the audience, acknowledging a shared background of cultural knowledge, in the opening lines of the poem: "We have heard of the thriving of the throne of Denmark" (emphasis added). The narrator's voice is also intimately connected with those of the characters. Both use narratives in the same way, to point a moral or to project future events.
The poet used several methods to create character. The narrator describes characters. The poet uses direct speech, a popular method in Germanic poetry to develop character. Characters define each other, as when the coast guard (lines 237-57) or Wulfgar (lines 336a-70) speak of their impressions of Beowulf and his men. More striking is the poet's careful development of characters through their own speeches. The voices of the individual...
(The entire section is 1035 words.)
Lines 1-370 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Hrothgar’s lineage given?
2. Why is Grendel’s lineage given?
3. What is Herot?
4. Why did Hrothgar build Herot?
5. Why did Herot lay empty for 12 years?
6. Why did Grendel attack Herot?
7. Why hasn’t Hrothgar rid Herot of Grendel?
8. Why does Beowulf come to Denmark?
9. Why does the sentry personally lead Beowulf and his men to Herot after hearing their reason for coming to Denmark?
10. Why does Wulfgar, the herald, urge Hrothgar to see Beowulf?
1. Hrothgar’s lineage is given to establish that he is a king. It also serves to ready the audience for the kind of poem it enjoys—one dealing with royalty, myths, or history.
2. Grendel’s lineage is given because the audience of the poem belongs to a culture shifting from paganism to Christianity. While the monster is a pagan symbol, he is descended from Cain—a fallen Biblical character—and lives “down in the darkness,” a metaphor for Hell. He is a bridge between paganism and Christianity and also holds out the promise of a battle between good and evil in the poem.
3. Herot is the sumptuously-built meadhall ordered by the Danish king, Hrothgar. It is a beautiful, huge, towering place with hammered gold gables.
4. Hrothgar ordered Herot built as a meadhall for his brave...
(The entire section is 488 words.)
Lines 371–835 Questions and Answers
1. How does Hrothgar know of Beowulf?
2. What information does Beowulf’s greeting to Hrothgar include?
3. What are the activities at the feast?
4. How does Unferth taunt Beowulf?
5. What is Beowulf’s response to Unferth’s taunts?
6. How does Welthow react to Beowulf?
7. Why does Beowulf meet Grendel bare-handed?
8. How may Grendel’s attack be described?
9. Why are the Geats’ weapons useless when they rush to Beo-wulf’s aid?
10. What is done with the prize of the battle?
1. Years prior to Grendel’s attacks, Beowulf’s father, Edgetho, came to Hrothgar for help. Edgetho had started a feud by killing a Wulfing warrior, Hathlaf; the conflict threatened to become a war between the Wulfings and the Geats. Edgetho’s own people refused him until the feud was settled. The newly crowned, young Danish king Hrothgar was able to end the feud by sending treasure to the Wulfings, and by convincing Edgetho to swear he would keep the peace, thereby averting war. Beowulf was a young child at this time.
2. Beowulf’s greeting to Hrothgar includes the following information: Higlac is his lord and relation; he (Beowulf) is a soldier of some renown (he elucidates his fame with several anecdotes); he wants to kill Grendel with only his bare hands and possibly the help of...
(The entire section is 690 words.)
Lines 836–1,250 Questions and Answers
1. Why do the crowds come to Herot?
2. What is the song of Siegmund?
3. Who is Hermod?
4. How does Hrothgar express his gratitude to Beowulf?
5. How does Beowulf describe the battle with Grendel when speaking to Hrothgar?
6. What is the song of Finn?
7. What is it Welthow tells Hrothgar when the songs are finished?
8. What does she say to Beowulf?
9. What is to happen to Herot once this feast is over?
10. What are the soldiers’ sleeping arrangements?
1. The crowds come to Herot in order to trace Grendel’s path from Herot to the edge of the lake in which he had his den. The water is still bloody and swirling, which delights the crowds since this confirms his death.
2. The song of Siegmund is about another dragon slayer who earns glory by single-handedly pinning a dragon to the wall of its own lair. The dragon dissolves in its own blood and Siegmund is rewarded with treasures and fame.
3. Hermod, as we are told in lines 899–911, is born a king, but “pride and defeat and betrayal” are his lot after he continuously ignores his people’s wishes and wise men’s warnings. He rules by his own vanity, which leads to misery for all and, ultimately, his death.
4. Hrothgar commands that Herot be cleansed and another feast be held, at which...
(The entire section is 579 words.)
Lines 1,251–1,650 Questions and Answers
1. What happens the first night the Danes return to sleep in Herot?
2. Why does Grendel’s mother flee from Herot?
3. Why does Hrothgar send for Beowulf?
4. How does Beowulf respond to Hrothgar’s request?
5. Where does Hrothgar lead Beowulf?
6. How may the lake containing Grendel’s mother and her lair be described?
7. Why is Beowulf careful to wear his armor?
8. How does Unferth’s behavior toward Beowulf change now?
9. How does Beowulf attempt to save his life when he realizes his weapons and helmet are ineffective?
10. What are Hrothgar and his soldiers doing while Beowulf battles Grendel’s mother?
1. The first night the Danes sleep in Herot after 12 years of avoiding the hall because of Grendel’s attacks, his mother—seeking revenge for the murder of her son—mounts her own attack.
2. Grendel’s mother flees Herot since she is vastly outnumbered by the Danish soldiers, who are not only using their shields to protect themselves against her attack, but their swords in a counter-attack upon her. She realizes she cannot win this battle and runs for her life, taking Esher and Grendel’s claw with her.
3. Hrothgar sends for Beowulf to ask him to, once again, rid Herot of the monster—in this case, Grendel’s mother.
4. Beowulf tells...
(The entire section is 561 words.)
Lines 1,651–1,887 Questions and Answers
1. What is the sign of victory Beowulf gives to Hrothgar?
2. How does Beowulf feel his life was saved?
3. What does Hrothgar do when Beowulf gives him the sword hilt?
4. What happened to the magical giants who made the sword?
5. What is the story of Hermod?
6. What, specifically, is Hrothgar warning Beowulf about in telling this story?
7. What is the occasion for Unferth’s visit?
8. What promises does Beowulf make as he takes his leave of Hrothgar?
9. Hrothgar says he is pleased with Beowulf for what reasons?
10. Why does Hrothgar weep?
1. The sign of victory that Beowulf gives to Hrothgar is Grendel’s head. When he won the earlier battle with Grendel, the monster was able to escape, minus his claw, arm, and shoulder, to die in his lair. At that time, Beowulf apologized to Hrothgar for not being able to bring him the monster’s body. After slaying Grendel’s mother, he finds the body in the lair that the mother and son shared and beheads it, bringing this prize to the Danish king.
2. Beowulf explains that God showed him the giants’ magical sword which he used to slay Grendel’s mother after Hrunting proved to be ineffective. (Remember, this is an English poem about the Danes and Geats written at the time when Christianity was first gaining acceptance.)...
(The entire section is 574 words.)
Lines 1,888–2,220 Questions and Answers
1. What does Beowulf give the boat watcher?
2. How are the Geats greeted once they arrive home?
3. What is the story of Thrith?
4. Why didn’t Higlac initially allow Beowulf to go to Hrothgar’s aid when they first heard of the monsters threatening Herot?
5. What is Beowulf’s opinion of Hrothgar’s plan concerning Ingeld and Freaw?
6. What is the heritage of the gifts Beowulf gives Higlac from Hrothgar?
7. What gift does Higlac bestow upon Beowulf?
8. At what point in the family lineage does Beowulf agree to assume the throne of Geatland?
9. How long does Beowulf rule peacefully?
10. What breaks the peace during Beowulf’s kingship?
1. Beowulf gives the man who watched their boat a sword with hammered gold wound around its handle as a reward for staying behind during their battles and to honor him for this sacrifice.
2. Upon arriving home, the Geats are greeted by joyous harbor guards who have been waiting and watching for their arrival for days. It is they who anchor and moor the boat, then carry the treasures it holds to Higlac’s home.
3. Thrith is a princess who used her vicious tongue to accuse people she disliked of wrong-doing, which led to their arrest and, then, death. Her marriage to Offa eventually ended this injustice.
(The entire section is 556 words.)
Lines 2,221–2,601 Questions and Answers
1. How did the tower come to be the dragon’s lair?
2. Why does the dragon burn down the Geats’ homes?
3. What is Beowulf’s reaction to this?
4. What does he order made for his battle with the dragon?
5. How is Herbald killed?
6. What does Beowulf say in his farewell speech to his followers?
7. How does Beowulf call the dragon?
8. How does the dragon respond to this?
9. Why does Beowulf lose the battle?
10. Where are his followers as he is losing the battle?
1. The last remaining member of an ancient race built the tower before he died to house the treasures of that now extinct race. The dragon, looking for victims, discovered the windowless, doorless tower built on the shore under a cliff and decided to use it for his lair. The dragon had slept there for hundreds of years, undisturbed.
2. A slave, seeking refuge from the master who beat him, stumbles upon the path to the tower. Once inside, he sees the dragon but manages to steal a jeweled cup before fleeing. The dragon, enraged at being awakened and robbed, attempts to track the slave. In his frustration at being unable to do so, he plans to attack at nightfall; the attack consists of burning down the people’s houses and Beowulf’s hall with his fiery breath.
3. Beowulf is guilt-ridden, feeling he...
(The entire section is 459 words.)
Lines 2,602–3,057 Questions and Answers
1. How did Wiglaf come to own his armor?
2. Why does Wiglaf go to Beowulf’s aid?
3. How is Beowulf mortally wounded?
4. How do the two men kill the dragon?
5. What is it Beowulf asks of Wiglaf after he is wounded?
6. When Wiglaf returns from fulfilling Beowulf’s request, what further request is made of him by Beowulf?
7. What does Wiglaf say to Beowulf’s followers when they return?
8. What is the message he sends with the herald to the people?
9. What is the Swedes’ argument with the Geats?
10. What is it the warriors see that causes them to weep?
1. Wiglaf’s family had once been Swedes. His father, Wexstan, served under Onela. At that time, Wexstan slew Onela’s nephew after the nephew fled Sweden seeking safety with Herdred in Geatland. When Wexstan presented the nephew’s weapons to Onela, they were returned to him. He, in turn, kept them for his son, Wiglaf, who inherited them upon his death. This battle with the dragon is the first time Wiglaf uses them.
2. Wiglaf goes to Beowulf’s aid because he remembers how well his king had treated his family when they came to Geatland from Sweden. He is also grateful to Beowulf for choosing him as one of his warriors and realizes his king is now an old man—no matter how brave he is—and needs the help of his...
(The entire section is 574 words.)
Lines 3,058–3,182 Questions and Answers
1. What does Wiglaf vainly attempt to tell Beowulf before he seeks the dragon?
2. According to Wiglaf, what are Beowulf’s post-mortem instructions?
3. Who is to bring wood for Beowulf’s funeral?
4. Why does Wiglaf bring the seven noblest Geats to the dragon’s treasure?
5. What is done with the dragon’s corpse?
6. How may the Geatish king’s funeral pyre be described?
7. What do the Geats do as the fire is burning?
8. How long does it take to build the tomb Beowulf has asked for?
9. Why do 12 of the bravest Geats ride around the tower?
10. In the closing lines of the poem, how does the poet describe Beowulf?
1. Wiglaf vainly attempts to persuade his king to leave the dragon sleeping with his treasure, for it will be too costly for the Geats to lose their king and be left leaderless should the dragon be the victor in this battle.
2. Beowulf instructs Wiglaf that, after his death, his body should be burned and the ashes brought to the dragon’s tower—which is to be made Beowulf’s tomb.
3. Only the leaders of the Geatish people—the landowners, the bravest, the wealthiest—are to gather the wood for Beowulf’s funeral.
4. The seven noblest Geats are brought to the treasure to gather from it what they can to place on Beowulf’s...
(The entire section is 385 words.)
This is a difficult poem to classify since it has no predecessors and nothing like it has survived. While usually considered an epic poem, Beowulf has also been labeled an elegy, perhaps for Beowulf himself or perhaps for the heroism of the past (and obviously admired by the Christian poet) pagan era. Others have felt it to be solely historical poetry about paganism.
One reason not to consider it an epic is that Beowulf has no specific tragic flaw which precipitates his downfall. He is an excellent, deeply religious, pagan warrior who does precisely what his culture expects of him—including seeking glory and protecting his people. Another reason is that it is longer than an epic, having three main episodes over a period of 50 years, rather than one event as is usual.
On the other hand, there is Beowulf as the epic hero who represents his culture and is noble, has considerable military prowess, and undying virtue. Several other elements of the epic poem are also evident in the poem: the lofty tone and style, the lengthy narrative, the genealogies, the involvement of the supernatural (in the form of the monsters, dragons, and giants), the invocation, and the voyage across the sea. Beowulf’s battle in the dragon’s underground lair may or may not be considered the obligatory trip to the underworld as found in the epic poem. While there are epic battles, they are not between universal champions, but rather between good and evil.
(The entire section is 247 words.)
Compare and Contrast
- Anglo-Saxon period: The pre-electrical world was a world of darkness. People got up and went to bed with the sun. Artificial lighting consisted of firelight and candles or small lamps burning whale or olive oil, or rushes dipped in animal fat. On a clear night in Anglo-Saxon England the sky would have been powdered with stars.
Late twentieth century: Today earth's great urban centers can light up the night. Airplane travelers can see the lights of towns, cities, and interstates. Relatively few stars can be seen.
- Anglo-Saxon period: The population of Britain in the early Middle Ages was probably under three million people. Land was still being reclaimed for farming, difficult in a country where most of the native trees will readily regrow from stumps. In Anglo-Saxon England wolves still roamed the countryside. The edges of forests were important for game, wood, and food for foraging semi-domesticated animals. Wetlands were important for fish, waterfowl and basketry materials, such as alder, willow, and rushes.
Late twentieth century: Today the population of Britain is over fifty-seven million. Most people live in cities. There is a constant struggle to save woodlands, wetlands, and areas of traditional agriculture.
- Anglo-Saxon period:...
(The entire section is 473 words.)
Topics for Further Study
- Research the rinds of the Sutton Hoo Burial excavated in 1939 and compare the burial and the treasures found to the burials and treasures in Beowulf.
- Investigate the recent research done on the development of kingship in the seventh and eighth centuries and compare the findings to the presentation of kingship in Beowulf.
- Read J. R. R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, particularly the chapters dealing with the Riders of Rohan. How is Beowulf reflected in the work?
- Investigate the new Beowulf manuscript project and report on the scientific tests which are used to investigate manuscripts, including infra-red photography and chemical analysis.
- Beowulf is a poem almost exclusively concerned with the upper end of society. Investigate the economic basis of migration-age tribes or early medieval kingdoms.
- The society which created Beowulf accepted the importance of the desire to be remembered. Investigate how modern psychology views this need.
- Metal-working was an important Anglo-Saxon craft. Although they could not achieve the high temperatures used in steel-making until the later middle ages, they had developed techniques to make small quantities of usable steel. Investigate these techniques and the physical properties of iron which make them possible.
(The entire section is 192 words.)
- After being the preserve of specialists for the first 150 years after its rediscovery, Beowulf began to catch the attention of general readers after the second world war. This is partially the result of the popularity of J. R. R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. Partially it is the result of a shift in attitudes concerning the bizarre and the marvellous. For whatever reasons, late twentieth-century audiences are willing to take seriously stories which pivot on human responses to monsters. Beowulf's monsters may be terrestrial, but they are essentially the terrors of modern science fiction, and of horror stories even closer to daily life. Many of the fears that Beowulf expressed and sublimated for its original audience are those which are similarly expressed and sublimated by the television series X-Files or the movie The Creature from the Black Lagoon or even Independence Day. We may even note that in the X-Files, the character Fox Mulder, like Beowulf, draws much of his motivation from his love of his family, a family which has grown to include his partner Dana Scully, just as Beowulf's grew to include Hrothgar. Many of the ideals which we find in Beowulf and other Old English and Old Norse heroic poetry have made their way into the fictional development of Klingon culture in the various Star Trek...
(The entire section is 314 words.)
What Do I Read Next?
- The anonymous Old English poem The Battle of Maldon was composed close to the time the Beowulf manuscript was being transcribed. It recounts the death in 991 A.D of Byrhtnoth, ealdorman (governor) of Essex, and his men while fighting the Vikings. It is filled with the heroic commonplaces of Germanic literature: the courageous and still active old war leader who makes one miscalculation, but dies shoulder to shoulder with his men, the retainers who die one by one standing by their dead lord. Modern readers will see in it formulas of another kind, the voices and characters of the men in the ranks, the career soldier as well as the civilian volunteer. Maldon and its characters could easily be transposed to a Hollywood platoon or bomber crew movie.
- The anonymous Irish epic Tain Bo Cualgne (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), available in a translation by Thomas Kinsella (1969), is unusual in that it is composed in prose with inset short verses. Like Beowulf it is difficult to date, the language of the oldest version is probably eighth century although some passages of inset verse may be older. The focus of the story fluctuates between two characters, Queen Maeve of Connacht, who begins the war, and the Ulster hero Cuchulainn. During the period in which the Tain and Beowulf were written, England and Ireland enjoyed close cultural relations.
- Felix's Life of Guthlac, translated by...
(The entire section is 528 words.)
Bibliography and Further Reading
Sources for Further Study
Alexander, Michael. "Introduction." In Beowulf: A Verse Translation. Penguin Books, 1973. Alexander offers a detailed introduction to the poem, discussing the history of the manuscript, the epic tradition, and the characters and plot of the poem.
———. "Epic." In A Dictionary of Modern Critical Terms, edited by Roger Fowler. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987, pp. 73-75. Alexander provides a short, clear introduction to the western epic with brief, well-integrated extracts from important critical texts.
Backhouse, Janet, D. H. Turner, and Leslie Webster. The Golden Age of Anglo-Saxon Art: 966-1066. British Museum, 1984. Provides marvellous illustrations of Anglo-Saxon art, fine and applied, covering the period in which the Beowulf manuscript was written.
Basset, Steven, ed. The Origins of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms. Leicester University Press, 1989. Provides a discussion of the political and social circumstances which may be reflected in Beowulf.
Benson, L. D. "The Originality of Beowulf." In The Interpretation of Narrative: Theory and Practice, Harvard Studies in English, Vol. 1, edited by M. W. Bloomfield. Harvard University Press, 1970, pp. 1-43. An excellent discussion of the originality of the poem and its the characters.
Bessinger, Jess B., and Robert F. Yeager. Approaches to Teaching...
(The entire section is 1560 words.)
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Sources for Further Study
Bjork, Robert E., and John D. Niles, eds. A “Beowulf ”Handbook. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997. Includes an essay explaining how overtly Christian and Germanic pre-Christian elements are blended in the portrait of the hero and throughout the narrative.
Booklist 96 (February 15, 2000): 1073. A review of Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Interpretations: “Beowulf.” New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Collection containing important essays by J. R. R. Tolkien and Fred C. Robinson establishing the importance of Christianity in shaping the themes of the poem.
Brodeur, Arthur G. The Art of “Beowulf.” Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960. From the starting point of belief in a singular author having written Beowulf, this volume provides a structural and thematic criticism of the work. It discusses diction, unity, setting, and Christian elements. A landmark reference.
Davis, Craig R. “Beowulf ”and the Demise of Germanic Legend in England. New York: Garland, 1996. Discusses ways that Christian elements are blended with Germanic religious traditions.
Goldsmith, Margaret E. The Mode and Meaning of “Beowulf.” London:...
(The entire section is 479 words.)