What are some alliterative lines in Beowulf?

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beowulf is written in alliterative verse. The poetic unit of the poem is a single line that is divided by a strong pause (known as a caesura) and that employs alliteration in some of the line's stressed words. As such, basically any line in Beowulf uses some kind of alliteration (the same sound used at the beginning of words). A prime example of alliteration can be seen in the fourth line of the poem: "There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes" (4). To make the alliteration easier to see, I'll paste the line below with the alliterative elements marked in bold:

The was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes...

The "s" sound repeated throughout the line is a clear example of alliteration. The use of alliteration was important for the structure of Old English poetry, and so the poet of Beowulf was following a common trend when structuring the verse of the poem. Once you get the hang of it, alliteration is easy to identify, so I'd encourage you to check out the rest of the poem and see what kind of alliteration you can find.

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