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  • Author – Anonymous
  • Genre – Poetry
  • Date – 975–1025

Beowulf is an old English epic poem which is set in Scandinavia, it is made up of 3182 alternative long lines. It is believed to be one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature and is also one of the oldest surviving epic poems of old English and earliest vernacular English literature.

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History

The entire poem has survived in the manuscript are known as the Nowell Codex, which is kept in the British Library. The poem is believed to be written in England and its composition done by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet. The poor Ms. dated between the eighth and the early 11th century. The manuscript was nearly lost but it was badly damaged by a fire in the Ashburnham House in London that house a collection of other medieval manuscripts which was assembled by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton. Scholars did not pay much attention to the poems existence, until the end of the 18th century and the first officially published edition was published in 1815 by the Icelandic Danish scholar Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin.

Summary

The poem Beowulf revolves around a hero of the Geats in Scandinavia, who is called upon and comes to the aid of Hroðgar who is the king of the Danes. His mead hall in Heorot is being attacked by a monster called Grendel, after hearing this Beowulf goes and slays Grendel. Seeing her son getting killed Grendel’s Mother attacks the mead hall and Beowulf. Yet again Beowulf emerges victorious. Beowulf goes home to Geatland in Sweden and later becomes King of the Geats.

Another 50 years pass and Beowulf now confronts a dragon. Beowulf is successful in defeating the Dragon, but he gets fatally wounded in that battle and passes away. After his death Beowulf’s attendance bury him in a burial mound in Geatland.

Analysis

J.R.R. Tolkien, who is the author and Merton Prof. of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University said in a lecture to the British Academy diet Beowulf is a very interesting piece of literature as poetry, in some places the poetry is so powerful that it overshadows the historical content. He also states that because of excessive interest in the historical implications of the poem critics have overlooked the literary value of the work itself.

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