An Explication of Beowulf's Monologue About His Past

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Katie Taylor
EH 215
Volf
4 February 2013
Beowulf’s Past
Beowulf is an epic poem that is filled with episodes and digressions that provide a better understanding of the poem as a whole. In one of the episodes, Beowulf speaks of his past, and the reader can learn about his upbringing as a child and how it has affected him as an adult. This monologue also gives some information about King Hrethel and his sons. The main purpose of this anecdote, however, is to describe how and when Beowulf began his career of combat and fame.

Within Beowulf’s monologue, the author utilizes alliterations and kenning to help the poem flow and to emphasize the strength and valor of Beowulf as an epic hero. One such example is the kenning used at the beginning of the episode. It reads, “Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke…” (2425). Instead of the phrasing reading “Beowulf spoke,” this phrase adds vigor to the beginning. It reinforces the idea that Beowulf is seen as an extremely powerful hero that can take on anything that comes his way as opposed to “just Beowulf.” If “son of Ecgtheow” were not used, Beowulf would seem almost boring compared to the magnificent, heroic image that comes to mind when this phrase is employed. Alliteration is also used to allow the poem to flow and also to provide an interesting element to otherwise bland sentences. “While I was in his ward he treated me no worse as a wean…” is referring to King Hrethel’s “adoption” of Beowulf after his father died (2432). The repetition of the W sound allows easy movement through the story that Beowulf tells, and it keeps the reader interested in what is being said. Another example of alliteration is the lines 2479-2480: “My own kith and kin avenged these evil events, as everybody knows…” Without any sound repetition, the reader would become bored with the story, but the author strategically places these examples of alliteration in the epic to provide more exciting details.

Along with these rhetorical...
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