Literary genres, The Epic Poem, Beowulf



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Literary genres
The development of early English literature is traditionally divided into Anglo-Saxon or Middle English period. Anglo-Saxon poetry was essentially oral until it reached the pen of the amanuensis who wrote it down. In most cases compositions were anonymous, often recited by a board or scop who entertained the noblemen in the halls of the kings. The scops sang chronicle, history, myth and legend expressed in two complementary modes: the epic and the elegiac one.
The Epic Poem
The two major epic poems are Iliad and Odyssey attributed to the Greek poet Homer. Later examples of epic poems are Aeneid of Virgil and the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf.
1)It is a long narrative poetical composition.
2)It deals with the recollection of a glorious past in the national history of a country and the brave deeds of heroes.
3)It contains references to historical events together with supernatural and mythological tales. 4)The society described is aristocratic and military.
5)The narrative is made up of type-scenes: the banquet, the battle, the voyage, the funeral.
6)The style is elevated, the vocabulary is rich and various.
7)Each line of a poem is divided into two halves by a break and has four stresses; alliteration links the two halves of the line.
8)Important features are formulas, conventional expressions easy to remember, and kennings, which are metaphorical expressions, such as: beaga brytta= the ring giver, that is the king; sinces brytta= the treasure giver(king); freowine= a gracious friend(king).
The story of Beowulf deals with a young hero who fights two gigantic monsters, Greandle and Greandle’s mother, in order to bring happiness to the kingdom of Heorot in Denmark. The final events of the poem take place fifty years later, when Beowulf is the old king. The old hero succeeds in killing a fire-breathing monster but he is mortally and he gives Wiglaf, his armour. The gold and the glory are buried with him.
Beowulf is an epic poem. The ideal of the warrior – courage, endurance, generosity. Superhuman powers are attributed to him: he spends days underwater, he kills monsters.
Supernatural characters. During the poem several monsters appear. The first one to be described is Grendel. He represents the evil. Greandels mother is a dragon, she looks a bit like a woman. She lives with her son in a supernatural lake filled with various monsters. The last monstrous creature is a fire-breathing, dragon.
Themes. The society described in this poem is, aristocratic and military but strongly coloured with Christian ideals. Other themes include the sense of the passing of time, the cult of fame and a deep feeling for nature.
Style. The language in Beowulf is rich and the style is vigorous.



  1. dalauretta94

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