The Epic Scale Of The Poem ' Beowulf '

2968 Words Aug 6th, 2014 12 Pages
The Anglo-Saxon story of Beowulf, as it appears in the version written by an unknown author in the early Middle Ages, is unique as a rare surviving example of epic poetry in the English tradition. In this paper, I will show the qualities that make Beowulf an epic, and I will explain the significance of the epic scale of the poem by looking at the battles that take place in the story. The three great beasts that Beowulf has to defeat represent the fears of the Danes about the uncontrollable violence of nature and about their own fallibility as men. At the same time, these creatures also represent an inversion of the three primary qualities a hero and a leader must possess, namely courage, justice and generosity, and Beowulf’s attempts to defeat them symbolize his internal struggle to become a good and just leader. Beowulf follows most of the conventions of composition that are characteristic of a literary epic, such as the use of a grand temporal and spatial scale. The hero of an epic must be a figure of great national or cosmic importance. (Abrams and Harpham 108) According to the story, Beowulf is the legendary representative of the King of Denmark, and he defeats a monster that has long terrorized the kingdom, thus saving the nation of Denmark and making him a great national hero. The beginning of the tale strengthens the importance of Beowulf as an epic, as the narrator tells us that this is a story about how the kings of the Spear-Danes in days gone by had “courage…

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