Analysis of the Sigemund Episode Within Beowulf
One of the best literary devices the author of Beowulf uses is the use of episodes and digressions. Each of these episodes and digressions tell another story apart from the main plot of Beowulf, but sets up an introduction to the main plot. One such episode, the Sigemund episode, tells of valiant King Sigemund who received glory and honor through his killing of the dragon and possession of the hoard. Sigemund became a noble and experienced king, only to be betrayed and brought to his downfall. Beowulf was much the same as Sigemund, and both were great examples of heroes. The Sigemund episode introduces a comparison to Beowulf, foreshadows Beowulf’s downfall, and parallels the irony of Beowulf’s shortcomings.
As we see in the following lines: “Sigemund’s name was known everywhere. / He was utterly valiant and venturesome, / a fence round his fighters and flourished therefore” (897-898), the author introduces Sigemund as an excellent comparison to Beowulf. The author uses the Sigemund episode to set up a better understanding of the character of Beowulf by describing a king much like himself. This allows the reader to understand the character of Beowulf and know what a noble and valiant character he was. The author presents Sigemund as a brave warrior who defeated the dragon, much like the victorious warrior that Beowulf was. And within the Sigemund episode, Heremod is introduced as a wicked king, an exact opposite of Sigemund and Beowulf. This allows the reader to compare the three kings, and promote Beowulf as a noble king such as Sigemund.
Another purpose of the Sigemund episode within Beowulf is to foreshadow Beowulf’s defeat and downfall. Sigemund is a noble and mighty king, but is led to his defeat in the following lines: “... The king was betrayed, ambushed in Jutland, overpowered / and done away with” (901-903). This defeat of Sigemund foreshadows Beowulf’s defeat and death during the battle with the...
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