Essay Beowulf: Epic or Elegy?

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Writing Lab III

Beowulf: Epic or Elegy? Beowulf is a poem written in manuscript form created in England sometime between the years 700 and 1000AD. The author is unknown to this day. Is Beowulf an epic poem or an elegy?
An epic is “a long narrative poem in elevated style presenting characters of high position in adventures forming an organic whole through their relation to a central heroic figure and through their development of episodes important to the history of a nation or race” (Harmon and Holman 188). An elegy is “a sustained and formal poem setting forth meditations on death or another solemn theme” (Harmon and Holman 178). Beowulf has been considered to be both an epic and an elegy; an epic by some, and elegy by others.
A
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The many adventures take place in Denmark and Geatland. Beowulf first fights Grendel in Denmark unarmed and defeats him. While still in Denmark, Beowulf goes underwater to Grendel’s mother’s lair to defeat her. In Geatland, Beowulf encounters the dragon for a fight to the finish. Although he was victorious, he paid the ultimate price, that price being his life. Moments after being bitten on the neck by the dragon, he succumbed to death. Epic poems consist of heroes who complete deeds of valor or extraordinary courage. “The captain of evil discovered himself in a handgrip harder than anything he had ever encountered in any man on the face of the earth. Every bone in his body quailed and recoiled, but he could not escape” (Beowulf 749-753). This quote shows that Beowulf’s strength is so great that even a monster cannot escape from it. As I have said before, Beowulf is not afraid to die. He faces death fearless and bold and prepares himself for battle.

Beowulf got ready, donned his war-gear, indifferent to death; his mighty, hand-forged, fine-webbed mail would soon meet with the menace underwater…
(Beowulf 1442-1445).
In this quote, Beowulf is getting ready to meet Grendel’s mother in her underwater lair. Beowulf is ready and does not fear death. He would rather fight until he dies instead of giving up a fight. No other human being would even think to try to defeat Grendel, or even think about trying to defeat Grendel’s mother. In an epic
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