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beowulf

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Introduction

Rachel Jane McKean 200314521 English Studies Mark Brown Beowulf Assignment 17th November 2003 1 1) Leslie Webster: Archaeology and Beowulf 2) There are many difficulties incorporated throughout Beowulf which challenge the modern day reader but which are also significant factors in the overall literary experience of the text. One of the main challenges that presents itself, according to 1925 Watt and Chambers, is the translation of Beowulf, the oldest English epic, from archaic Anglo-Saxon English into modern day English, applied with the reader's already established, own contemporary knowledge and conceptions of the language. Leslie Webster declares it is also possible to be led into a manifold of misinterpretations when combining the important elements of poetic description, complex historical features and archaeological accounts along with our own current preconceptions. For example, it could be seen as an advantage for the reader to have an academic knowledge of early medieval north-western Europe prior to reading Beowulf. However, Webster argues that this may very well act as a disadvantage, since this could influence and shape the reader's comprehension of the poem as they try to apply and relate their own knowledge to the text. ...read more.

Middle

We must realise Beowulf is set in the past for this is important in perceiving that Anglo-Saxons' history played a huge role in their lives and governed the way in which they lived. This is demonstrated in the text by repeated references to ancestors, heirlooms and legends. My lord, the conquering king of the Danes, bids me announce that he knows your ancestry; also that he welcomes you here to Heorot and salutes your arrival from across the sea. (391-394) During Anglo-Saxon times, the nature of a person's ancestry judged their character and how they were treated in society. Beowulf was son of Ecgtheow, the later King of the Geats and was consequently a well respected, trusted and admired individual. The endless kennings can be confusing but one of its benefits is helping the reader remember the character's ancestry and hence, their value in society. To a modern day reader monsters and legends are considered to be allegories or fables but Webster distinguishes that they are not uncommon to the Anglo-Saxons and were a normal part of life. We must accept this if we want the poem's real meaning to be revealed. ...read more.

Conclusion

The various difficulties immersed in Beowulf have the subtle effect of drawing the reader in closer to the text, maintaining their concentration and once it is understood, a real sense of achievement is gained. I believe the explicit descriptions of weaponry are also a significant component in Beowulf and should not be considered lightly when looking at the way in which the text achieves its literary effects. The manner in which Heaney uses literary techniques when interpreting weaponry not only describes what they are made of, but also how they were skilfully and intricately formed and even how they sound when they move. Their mail-shirts glinted, hard and hand-linked; the high-gloss iron of their armor rang. (321-323) When Heaney's descriptions are combined with Webster's explanations, it becomes clear cut that the literal effect is intriguing and fascinating the reader and at the same time showing the importance and relevance of weaponry. Webster concludes by remarking that Heaney's clever approach in adapting archaeological evidence in Beowulf united together with the merging of past and present, has the literal effect of capturing the poem's extreme depth, attribute and quality. This is a unique poem which its layers and characteristics make it a difficult but interesting and different read. 4 ...read more.

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