Beowulf | Summary, Characters, & Analysis |


beowulf literature book summary

Beowulf is the longest surviving Anglo-Saxon poems today. It is a literary masterpiece. To know that a work of literature has lasted for this many years is remarkable. Beowulf by Anonymous Though its authorship is unknown, the poem was written between and , preserved as the Nowell Codex, badly damaged in a London fire which housed medieval works collected by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton, moved to the British Library where it remains today. Aug 09,  · Beowulf. Beowulf, heroic poem, the highest achievement of Old English literature and the earliest European vernacular epic. It deals with events of the early 6th century and is believed to have been composed between and Although originally untitled, it was later named after the Scandinavian hero Beowulf.

Beowulf by by Seamus Heaney: Summary and reviews

It is one of the most important works of Old English literature. The date of composition is a matter of contention among scholars; the only certain dating pertains to the beowulf literature book summary, which was produced between and The story is set in Scandinavia. Beowulfa hero of the Geatscomes to the aid of Hrothgarthe king of the Daneswhose mead hall in Heorot has been under attack by a monster known as Grendel. After Beowulf slays him, Grendel's mother attacks the hall and is then also defeated.

After a period of fifty years has passed, beowulf literature book summary, Beowulf defeats a dragonbut is mortally wounded in the battle. After his death, his attendants cremate his body and erect a tower on a headland in his memory. The full story survives in the manuscript known as the Nowell Codex. It has no title in the original manuscript, but has become known by the name of the story's protagonist. The events in the poem take place over most of the sixth century, after the Anglo-Saxons had started migrating to England and before the beginning of the seventh century, beowulf literature book summary, a time when the Anglo-Saxons were either newly arrived or were still in close contact with their Germanic kinsmen in Northern Germany and southern Scandinavia.

The stories in the poem may have been brought to England by people of Geatish origins. The poem blends fictional, legendary and historic elements. Although Beowulf himself is not mentioned in any other Anglo-Saxon manuscript, [11] scholars generally agree that many of the other figures referred to in Beowulf also appear in Scandinavian sources.

Specific works are designated in the following section. In Denmark, recent archaeological excavations at Lejrewhere Scandinavian tradition located the seat of the Scyldings, i. When the western mound to the left in the photo was excavated inthe finds showed that a powerful man was buried in a beowulf literature book summary barrow, c. The eastern mound was excavated inbeowulf literature book summary, and contained the remains of a woman, or a woman and a young man.

The middle barrow has not been excavated. The protagonist Beowulfa hero of the Geats, comes to the aid of Hrothgar, king of the Daneswhose great hall, Heorotis plagued by the monster Grendel. Beowulf kills Grendel with his bare hands and Grendel's mother with a giant's sword that he found in her lair.

Later in his life, beowulf literature book summary, Beowulf becomes king of the Geats, and finds his realm terrorized by a dragonsome of whose treasure had been stolen from his hoard in a burial mound.

He attacks the dragon with the help of his thegns or servants, but they do not succeed. Beowulf finally slays the dragon, but is mortally wounded in the struggle.

He is cremated and a burial mound by the sea is erected in his honour. Beowulf is considered an epic poem in that the main character is a hero who travels great distances to prove his strength at impossible odds against supernatural demons and beasts. The poem also begins in medias res or simply, "in the middle of things," which is a characteristic of the epics of antiquity. Although the poem begins with Beowulf's arrival, Grendel's attacks have been an ongoing event.

An elaborate history of characters and their lineages is spoken of, as well as their interactions with each other, debts owed and repaid, beowulf literature book summary, and deeds of valour.

The warriors form a kind of brotherhood linked by loyalty to their lord. Beowulf literature book summary poem begins and ends with funerals: at the beginning of the poem for Scyld Scefing 26—45 and at the end for Beowulf — Beowulf begins with the story of Hrothgar, who constructed the great hall Heorot for himself and his warriors.

In it, he, his wife Wealhtheowand his warriors spend their time singing and celebrating. Grendel, a troll-like monster said to be descended from the biblical Cainis pained by the sounds of joy. Hrothgar and his people, helpless against Grendel, abandon Heorot. Beowulf, a beowulf literature book summary warrior from Geatland, hears of Hrothgar's troubles and with his king's permission leaves his homeland to assist Hrothgar.

Beowulf and his men spend the night in Heorot. Beowulf refuses to use any weapon because he holds himself to be the equal of Grendel. This display would fuel Grendel's mother's anger in revenge.

The next night, after celebrating Grendel's defeat, Hrothgar and his men sleep in Heorot. Grendel's mother, angry that her son has been killed, sets out to get revenge. Earlier, after the award of treasure, The Geat had been given another lodging"; his assistance would be absent in this battle. Hrothgar, Beowulf, and their men track Grendel's mother to her lair under a lake.

After stipulating a number of conditions to Hrothgar in case of his death including the taking in of his kinsmen and the inheritance by Unferth of Beowulf's estateBeowulf jumps into the lake, and while harassed by water monsters gets to the bottom, where he finds a cavern. Grendel's mother pulls him in, and she and Beowulf engage in fierce combat. At beowulf literature book summary, Grendel's mother appears to prevail, and Hrunting proves incapable of hurting the woman; she throws Beowulf to the ground and, sitting astride him, tries to kill him with a short sword, but Beowulf is saved by his armour.

Beowulf spots another sword, hanging on the wall and apparently made for giants, and cuts her head off with it. Travelling further into Grendel's mother's lair, Beowulf discovers Grendel's corpse and severs his head with the sword, whose blade melts because of the "hot blood".

Only the hilt remains, beowulf literature book summary. Beowulf swims back up to the rim of the pond where his men wait. Carrying the hilt of the sword and Grendel's head, he presents them to Hrothgar upon his return to Heorot.

The events prompt a long reflection by beowulf literature book summary king, sometimes referred to as "Hrothgar's sermon", in which he beowulf literature book summary Beowulf to be wary of pride and to reward his thegns. Beowulf returns home and eventually becomes king of his own people.

When the dragon sees that the cup has been stolen, it leaves its cave in a rage, burning everything in sight. Beowulf and his warriors come to fight the dragon, but Beowulf tells his men that he will fight the dragon alone and that they should wait on the barrow.

Beowulf descends to do battle with the dragon, but finds himself outmatched. His men, upon seeing this and fearing for beowulf literature book summary lives, retreat into the woods. One of his men, Wiglaf, however, in great distress at Beowulf's plight, comes to his aid. The two beowulf literature book summary the dragon, but Beowulf is mortally wounded.

After Beowulf dies, Wiglaf remains by his side, grief-stricken, beowulf literature book summary. When the beowulf literature book summary of the men finally return, Wiglaf bitterly admonishes them, blaming their cowardice for Beowulf's death. Afterward, Beowulf is ritually burned on a great pyre in Geatland while his people wail and mourn him, fearing that without him, the Geats are defenceless against attacks from surrounding tribes. Afterwards, a barrow, visible from the sea, is built in his memory Beowulf lines — The dating of Beowulf has attracted considerable scholarly attention and opinion differs as to whether it was first written in the 8th century or whether the composition of the poem was nearly contemporary with its eleventh century manuscript and whether a proto-version of the poem possibly a version of the Bear's Son Tale was orally transmitted before being beowulf literature book summary in its present form.

Albert Lord felt strongly that the manuscript represents the transcription of a performance, though likely taken at more than one sitting. Tolkien believed that the poem retains too genuine a memory of Anglo-Saxon paganism to have been composed more than a few generations after the completion of the Christianisation of England around AD[32] and Tolkien's conviction that the poem dates to the 8th century has been defended by Tom ShippeyLeonard Neidorf, Rafael J.

Pascual, and R. Fulk, among others. The claim to an early 11th-century date depends in part on scholars who argue that, rather than the transcription of a tale from the oral tradition by an earlier literate monk, Beowulf reflects an original interpretation of an earlier version of the story by the manuscript's two scribes.

On the other hand, some scholars argue that linguistic, palaeographical, metrical, and onomastic considerations align to support a date of composition in the first half of the eighth century; [37] [38] [39] [40] in particular, the poem's regular observation of etymological length distinctions Max Kaluza's law has been thought to demonstrate a date of composition in the first half of the eighth century.

Hutcheson, for instance, does not believe Kaluza's Law can be used to beowulf literature book summary the poem, while claiming that "the weight of all the evidence Fulk presents in his beowulf literature book summary [b] tells strongly in favour of an eighth-century date.

Beowulf survives in a single manuscript dated on palaeographical grounds to the late 10th or early 11th century. The poem is known only from a single manuscript, which is estimated to date from close to ADin which it appears with other works. The Beowulf manuscript is known as the Nowell Codex, gaining its name from 16th-century scholar Laurence Nowell.

XV" because it was one of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton 's holdings in the Cotton library in the middle of the 17th century. Many private antiquarians and book collectors, such as Sir Robert Cotton, used their own library classification systems. XV" translates as: the 15th book from the left on shelf A the top shelf of the bookcase with the bust of Roman Emperor Vitellius standing on top of it, in Cotton's collection.

The earliest extant reference to the first foliation of the Nowell Codex was made sometime between and by Franciscus Junius the younger. Smith's catalogue appeared inand Wanley's in In the letter to Wanley, Hickes responds to an apparent charge against Smith, made by Wanley, that Smith had failed to mention the Beowulf script when cataloguing Cotton MS. Vitellius A. Hickes replies to Wanley "I can find nothing yet of Beowulph.

It suffered damage in the Cotton Library fire at Ashburnham House in Since then, parts of the manuscript have crumbled along with many of the letters. Rebinding efforts, though saving the manuscript from much degeneration, have nonetheless covered up other letters of the poem, causing further loss. Kevin Kiernan, beowulf literature book summary, in preparing his electronic edition of the manuscript, used fibre-optic backlighting and ultraviolet lighting to reveal letters in the manuscript lost from binding, erasure, or ink blotting.

The Beowulf manuscript was transcribed from an original by two scribes, beowulf literature book summary, one of whom wrote the prose at the beginning of the manuscript and the first lines before breaking off in mid sentence. The first scribe made a point of carefully regularizing the spelling of the original document by using the common West Saxon language and by avoiding any archaic or dialectical features.

The second scribe, who wrote the remainder, with a difference in handwriting noticeable after lineseems to have written more vigorously and with less interest. As a result, the second scribe's script retains more archaic dialectic features, which allow modern scholars to ascribe the poem a cultural context. In the way that it is currently bound, the Beowulf manuscript is followed by the Old English poem Judith.

Judith was written by the same scribe that completed Beowulf as evidenced through similar writing style. Wormholes beowulf literature book summary in the last leaves of the Beowulf manuscript that are absent in the Judith manuscript suggest that at one point Beowulf ended the volume. The rubbed appearance of some leaves also suggest that the manuscript stood on a shelf unbound, as is known to have been the case with other Old English manuscripts.

The question of whether Beowulf was passed down through oral tradition prior to its present manuscript form has been the subject of much debate, and involves more than simply the issue of its composition. Rather, given the implications of the theory of oral-formulaic composition and oral tradition, the question concerns how the poem is to be understood, and what sorts of interpretations are legitimate.

Scholarly discussion about Beowulf in the context of the oral tradition was extremely active throughout the s and s. The debate might be framed starkly as follows: on the one hand, we can hypothesise a poem put together from various beowulf literature book summary concerning the hero the Grendel episode, the Grendel's mother story, beowulf literature book summary, beowulf literature book summary the fire drake narrative.

These fragments would have been told for many years in tradition, and learned by apprenticeship from one generation of illiterate poets to the next. The poem is composed orally and extemporaneously, and the archive of tradition on which it draws is oral, pagan, Germanic, heroic, and tribal.


Beowulf Summary


beowulf literature book summary


Aug 09,  · Beowulf. Beowulf, heroic poem, the highest achievement of Old English literature and the earliest European vernacular epic. It deals with events of the early 6th century and is believed to have been composed between and Although originally untitled, it was later named after the Scandinavian hero Beowulf. From a general summary to chapter summaries to explanations of famous quotes, the SparkNotes Beowulf Study Guide has everything you need to ace quizzes, tests, and essays. the literature of the past by copying manuscripts. After suffering mistreatment and several near-disasters, the Beowulf manuscript is now safely housed in the British Library in London. The Beowulf Poet about ? from Beowulf Epic Poem by the Beowulf Poet Translated by Burton Raffel VIDEO TRAILER KEYWORD: HMLA Go to