Why Is Beowulf An Epic Poem Essay

Beowulf: An Anglo Saxon Epic Poem Essay

The epic poem Beowulf, is a work of fiction and was composed sometime between the middle of the seventh and the end of the tenth century of the first millennium, in the language today called Anglo- Saxon or Old English. This story is a heroic narrative, more than three thousand lines long, concerning the deeds of the Scandinavian prince, also called Beowulf, and it stands as one of the foundation works of poetry in English.
Beowulf is obviously a creation of the poet, through partial comparisons have been made between him and somewhat similar characters in folklore and Icelandic sagas. As related to other characters in the poem, he would probably have been shortly before 500 and died as a very old man. That Beowulf's origin is obscure, that he apparently never married and/or produced any children, that he returned alone from the battle that took the life of his king instead of dying by his side in the best Germanic-heroic tradition, that he was almost entirely inactive in the Geat-Swede conflicts, that he seems at times superhuman and at other times merely a remarkable ma, that he is such a curious blend of pagan and Christian, that he never appears anywhere else in all literature of the North- these things are not bothersome o difficult to understand when we realize that a major poet was trying something big and new, and that he created for his work and original character to bring together all of its complex features.
The poem was written in England but the events it describes are set in Scandinavia, in a "once upon a time" that is partly historical. Its hero, Beowulf, is the biggest presence among the warriors in the land of the Geats, a territory situated in what is now southern Sweden, and early in the poem Beowulf crosses the sea to the land of the Danes in order to clear their country of a man eating monster called Grendel. From this expedition (which involves him in a second contest with Grendel's mother) he returns in triumph and eventually rules for fifty years as king of his homeland. Then a dragon begins to terrorize the countryside and Beowulf must confront it. In a final climatic encounter, he does manage to slay the dragon, but also meets his own death and enters the legends of his people as a warrior of high renown. Beowulf is a gratifying surprise, completely unexpected in an age which favored straightforward heroic lays concerning conflicts between human beings.
Anglo-Saxon England is curiously viewed by most as a place of warring primitive tribes worshiping pagan Gods and dominated by illiterate kings constantly fighting among themselves and drinking the nights away while their unlettered minstrels recited tales of conquest and bloodshed, sheltering in smoky halls strewn about with bones and cracked drinking horns. This may well have been true of some kingdoms from the first arrivals of Angles, Saxons, and Jutes in England around 450 and on down through the final conquest of the Romano-Celtic inhabitants about a...

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Beowulf - A Literary Epic

There are ten basic elements that help to classify a poem as an epic. Although Beowulf does not contain all of these elements, it has enough of them to still identify it as an epic.

There are ten characteristics of an epic: the central character has heroic or superhuman qualities, the action takes place on an immense scale, the action involves the fate of an entire population or the whole human race, gods or semi-divine creatures aid one side or the other, the author announces his theme in opening, a character calls on the muses to help him, the poem begins "in media res," the style of poem is often noble and majestic, the characters speak in long set speeches, in some cases there is literary…show more content…

An epic contains action at an immense level. Throughout the book there were battles between men and horrendous beasts. Each of Beowulf's battles contained exciting elements that enhanced the action. In his battle with Grendel, Beowulf fought with neither weapon nor human help. When challenging Grendel's mother, her immense strength and the fact that Beowulf was hours below the surface of the water hindered his fighting ability. In his final battle, Beowulf was up against one of the most feared beasts of all time, the dragon. With its ability to use poison and fire, it was an opponent that was not easily overcome.

Often, epics involve the fate of the country's population, or sometimes even the whole human race. In the many wars throughout the book, opposing nations slaughtered entire populations. For nearly twelve years, Grendel raided Herot, killing the Danes remaining after the day's festivities. Because of these raids, all of Denmark feared the beast. In the battle with Grendel, all of Beowulf's soldiers were in danger of being killed had their great leader not killed Grendel. If Beowulf had not slain Grendel's mother so quickly after her discovery, she may have killed more Danes than her weaker son. The Fire Dragon terrorized Beowulf's kingdom, burning homes, churches and other town buildings. When Beowulf and Wiglaf

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