Posted by: vikingsinspace | July 11, 2011

VI.30.008. Read Beowulf

Date Accomplished: 22 November, 2010

Beowulf

Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney (New York, 2000)

Intro.

ix    – Composed between middle of seventh century and the end of the tenth century

xiii    – 2 digressions in the poem, lns. 883-914, and lns. 1070-1158, where a minstrel chants a poem to celebrate one of Beowulf’s achievements.

xiv    – story of 3 peoples – the Danes/shielding, Ingwins, Spear-Danes, Bright-Danes, etc. Hrothgar is King

xv    – The Geates, the People of Beowulf

    – And the Swedes – mostly on the edge as a threat to the Geates

xix    – All scriptural references are from the Old Testament

Beowulf

5 – lns. 30-52    – Elaborate description of the funeral of Shield Sheafson

7 – lns. 64-9    – Hrothgar proves himself in war, gathers a large following, then builds a Mead-Hall

9 – lns. 90-8    – Mention of a poet telling stories n the mead-hall, but given the Christian bent of Creation

13 – ln. 156    – Grendal refuses to pay a ‘death-price’ → This was literally a fine for murder

37-9 – lns. 530-58    – Beowulf’s account of the swimming contest – quite a lot of boasting, such as swimming in chainmail and with a sword for over 5 days

43 – lns. 620-3    – Wealhtheow, Hrothgar’s Queen, seems to have a duty of passing a cup around the mead-hall for the men to drink from

– lns. 632-8    – Beowulf makes his formal boast to slay Grendal

55-7 – lns. 832-5    – Beowulf keeps Grendal’s arm as a trophy. → in later times in the tournament, the victor would keep his opponent’s ‘arms.’ Could this be something similar in a symbolic way? Grendal’s strength was his best/only weapon

69 – lns. 1019-48    – The lavish gifts Hrothgar gives to Beowulf – much gold, seems obsessed with it

107 – lns. 1529-30    – After Beowulf’s sword fails to cut Grendal’s mother, the poem says “Hygelac’s kinsman (Beowulf) kept thinking about / his name and fame: he never lost heart”

    └> Reputation is all

175-7 – lns. 2602-9    – Really emphasizing loyalty to one’s lord in the person of Wiglaf

185 – lns. 2743-51    – Even though Beowulf is dying, he needs to see the treasure he has won from the dragon

Certainly an obsession with gold & treasure throughout, but not a selfish kind. The text makes a big deal about the lord being generous, and in particular giving of rings. The feud pervades throughout as well, with people expecting and welcoming retributional killings or paying a murder fine, and there are certainly times when the characters lament being unable to meet these expectations.

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