Analysis on Beowulf
I have just completed the reading of Beowulf, which was translated by Burton Raffel.
1)Beowulf is an extremely exciting and fascinating story about a character who lived in medieval Europe. The shocking thing for me about this work was to find out that it is the earliest poem in a modern European language. Beowulf is to the English what Homer and the Odyssey were to the Greeks. Although this is the earliest poem, it is still fun and exciting to read. I didn't believe that a poem which has been around for more than twelve centuries, could keep my interest. I was wrong. The book is filled with more blood and guts then the average summer horror flick. After the battle with Grendel, the monster which has been ravaging the Danish countryside and killing countless men, Beowulf makes sure that all people know that he had injured the great monster. It is translated that, "...no Dane doubted the victory, for the proof, hanging high from the rafters where Beowulf had hung it, was the monster's arm, claw and shoulder and all" (Raffel, 49). It was the shocking use of detail and exciting battles that was left with me when I finished the book. I guess all books, regardless of their age can still be fun and entertaining to read.
2)Good literature has a very precise definition for me. I judge a piece of literature on three different criteria, 1) does it have memorable characters, 2) does the work take me to a place and let me experience things that I have never experienced before, and 3) will the work stay with me long after I have completed reading it. This is the criteria on which I judge a book and according to this, I believe that Beowulf should be considered "good" literature.
I always ask myself, when I am done reading a book, did the book have memorable characters. In Beowulf, the characters were memorable. A minor character in the book, the king of the Danes, named Hrothgar, is a character who sticks out greatly in my mind. Hrothgar was a king of the Danes and built for them a huge mead hall in which men were able to eat drink and be merry. It was then that the great monster, Grendel, came and destroyed the utopia which was Herot by eating and feasting on the Danish warriors. Hrothgar sticks out in my mind because I could envision him, in the time before Beowulf came to the Danes, in anger and despair over this monster that wouldn't stop killing his soldiers and friends. This minor character is memorable in my mind, as are all the characters in this work.
I have never read a book about medieval Europe. I am not a big fantasy book reader, so in my reading, I hardly, if ever, experience monsters and dragons and sword fights. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed reading about these fantastic adventures of Beowulf and his clan. This book allowed me to experience a time, place and adventures that I have never experienced before.
After reading Beowulf, the instances in the book stayed with me long after I was done. Instances like the battle with Grendel's mother underneath the ocean, Beowulf's rise to king, and finally the great warriors last stand against the dragon were memorable. .
Because Beowulf meets all of my criteria of "good" literature, I believe that this work is in fact a worthy read.
3)The climax in a work is the point of highest tension followed by a resolution. In Beowulf, the climax occurs during Beowulf's battle against the fire-breathing dragon, which has been killing Beowulf's people, the Geats. One of the most climactic lines in the work is when Raffel translates,
"Then the famous old hero, remembering days of glory, lifted what was left of Nagling, his ancient sword, and swung it with all his strength, smashed the gray blade into the beast's head." (106)
This is the climax of the work because it is the point of highest tension in the work and after this, the resolution occurs.
For Beowulf, the main character in the work, the climax determines his ultimate demise. The hero of heroes, the warrior of