Literary Analysis Essay For Beowulf

Literary Analysis Essay For Beowulf-31
The general structure of the poem is then clear, writes Tolkien."It is essentially a balance, an opposition of ends and beginnings.

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Tolkien returns to the monsters, and regrets we know so little about pre-Christian English mythology; he resorts instead to Icelandic myth, which he argues must have had a similar attitude to monsters, men and gods. The Southern (Roman and Greek) pagan gods were immortal, so to Tolkien (a Christian), the Southern religion "must go forward to philosophy or relapse into anarchy": death and the monsters are peripheral.

But the Northern myths, and Beowulf, put the monsters, mortality and death in the centre.

Similarly, he dismisses notions that the poem is primitive: it is instead a late poem, using materials left over from a vanished age: When new Beowulf was already antiquarian, in a good sense, and it now produces a singular effect. The scholar and translator Roy Liuzza commented that Tolkien's essay "is usually credited with re-establishing the fabulous elements and heroic combats at the center of the modern reader's appreciation of the poem." Liuzza at once went on to write, however, that "the separation of the poem into 'mythical' and 'historical' elements is a false dichotomy".

For it is now to us itself ancient; and yet its maker was telling of things already old and weighted with regret, and he expended his art in making keen that touch upon the heart which sorrows have that are both poignant and remote. He argues that if myth can condense and hold the deepest sources of tension between self and the social order, and dramatises current ideologies by projecting them into the past, then even the hero Beowulf's mythic fights are at the same time throwing light on society and history.

Though if we must have a term, we should choose rather 'elegy'.

It is an heroic-elegiac poem; and in a sense all its first 3,136 lines are the prelude to a dirge.In it, Tolkien speaks against critics who play down the monsters in the poem, namely Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon, in favour of using Beowulf solely as a source for Anglo-Saxon history.Tolkien argues that rather than being merely extraneous, these elements are key to the narrative and should be the focus of study.This naturally encouraged a pre-existent tendency to square the poem with what else was known of the 'serious' levels of Anglo-Saxon thought - chiefly the Latin scholarship of the Church.Secondly, Tolkien went far towards vindicating the structure of the poem by arguing that it was a balance of contrasting and interlocking halves.He builds a tower with some of it, but when people find the stones are older than the tower, they pull it down "to look for hidden carvings and inscriptions". Tolkien notes that Ker's opinion had been a powerful influence in favour of a paradoxical contrast between the poem's supposed defect in speaking of monsters, and (in Tolkien's words) its agreed "dignity, loftiness in converse, and well-wrought finish".Tolkien cites other critics, such as Raymond Wilson Chambers and Ritchie Girvan, who objected to the poem's "wilderness of dragons" and its unworthy choice of theme."Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" was a 1936 lecture given by J. It was first published as a paper in that year in the Proceedings of the British Academy, and has since been reprinted in many collections. Tolkien on literary criticism on the Old English heroic epic poem Beowulf.Tolkien takes a moment to dismiss another criticism, that monsters should not have been made to appear in both halves.He replies he can see the point of no monsters, but not in complaining about their mere numbers; the poet could not, he argues, have balanced Beowulf's rise to fame through a war in Frisia, against death by dragon.


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