Clara Lacarte Broto Luis Martín Sanjuán Laura Martínez Penagos
This essay is going to analyze a fragment that belongs to Beowulf, which is an epic and anonymous Anglo-Saxon poem. It is written in Old English even though the characters are not English but they have Germanic origins. This work has not title since it belongs to a manuscript, but,because of its reputation among the other stories of the manuscript, the title Beowulf, that is the protagonist, was given to this story by the editors. This poem has 3182 verses and the written version takes place at the end of the 10th century or the beginning of the 11th century. The poem has two sections which are developed in different reigns: the first one in the Reign of the Juts and thesecond one in the Reign of the Geats. The fragment which will be analyzed appears at the end of the story (lines 3076 - 3182) and tells the events that happen after the third battle against the dragon, where it can be seen the influence of “The Dragon-Slayer Tales” after the temporal gap which lasts about 50 years. It can be highlighted that the funeral rites which occur in the story were real at thattime.
This fragment begins with Wiglaf’s speech about Beowulf’s death. After that, there is a description of the funeral and Geats’ lament. Then the poem ends.
The poem has a ring-composition structure: it means that all the episodes are organized around a central one which is the climax of the story. Thus, the fragment that is being analyzed which is the epilogue coincides with theprologue, which is the very beginning of the work. So the poem begins and ends with a funeral: the first one, that opens the story, is Scyld’s funeral, and Beowulf’s funeral closes the story.
It is remarkable the contrast between the celebrations after each victory and the sadness and the laments after Beowulf’s death. It is also remarkable the parallelism betweenBeowulf’s loyalty to Hrothgar and the loyalty of Wiglaf to Beowulf.
In Anglo-Saxon poetry the poems were transmitted in an oral way so a consequence of this is the prosody. The versification features have to do how this poetry sounds since Anglo-Saxon’s poetry was designed to be listened. The repetition of sounds helped the poet to remember because it is an aid to memorize it. Because of thesefeatures, Anglo-Saxon prosody is described as strong-stressed metre or alliterative measure. Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of the word or syllable, so it could be said that in lines 3082 or 3119 there are alliterations of the consonants sounds /l/ and /f/ respectively: lét him líe where he was lóng accustomed Féather-flédged, it fínned the barb in flíght.
Inaddition, there is no rhyme in Anglo-Saxon poetry because it appears after the Norman Conquest, and it is demonstrated throughout the whole poem. There are
also inner pauses in the middle of each line as in line 3085: but a grave cost, it was too cruel a fate; or in line 3178: So the Geat people, his hearth-companions, and many more. This pause is called caesura.
The first one is between lines 3076 and 3119. In this part, Wiglaf’s gives a speech honouring Beowulf and tells that he died after he fought against the dragon. Wiglaf also voice Beowulf’s last wish and his desire of sharing the gold for his people. There are formulaic phrases to refer to Wiglaf such as: “son of Weohstan” (line3076), Weohstan’s son (line 3110); and there are also variations that make reference to Beowulf in different ways such as: the prince we loved, our land’s guardian (line 3080); our lord (line 3107) or “the man we loved (line 3108). However, near synonyms are used to refer to the dragon instead of variations, as: The custodian of the gold. (Line 3081) In lines between 3102 and 3107, it can be seen a...