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Poetic Devices in Beowulf

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1 Poetic Devices in Beowulf

2 Alliteration- two initial consonant sounds repeated
A. Used in modern poetry, but more extensive in Anglo-Saxon literature B. In Beowulf, alliteration exists in almost every line, with at least one alliterative word in each hemi-stiche. C. Double alliteration: two initial consonant sounds that are repeated Examples: Wyrm wobogen wealden ne moste Geaf me sine ond symbel, sibbe germunde

3 Kennings a metaphorical compound word used as a poetic device
Signifies a person or thing by a characteristic or quality A noun renamed in a creative way, generally compounding two words Examples Bone-house = body Whale-road = ocean Gold friend of men = generous prince / king Ring-giver = lord Flashing-light = sword

4 Simile A figure of speech involving a direct comparison, using the words “like” or “as” between two basically unlike things that have something in common Not usually found in Anglo Saxon poetry, but there are a few in Beowulf Examples Our love is like a forest fire (compares love with fire; commonality = burning, out of control) Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives

5 Litotes a negative expression usually in the form of an understatement
It is a grimly humorous statement, an ironic remark Fits with the tough and gloomy outlook of Anglo Saxon life EXAMPLE-”Hildeburh had no cause to praise the Jutes.” –The Jutes have just killed his brother

6 Diction author’s choice of words and phrases in a literary work
In Beowulf, the diction is elevated and generalized, like the diction of other epic poetry Number of repetitions , number of circumlocutions—use of many words where a few would do) Used to help the poet memorize lines and as a guide when telling the story EXAMPLE = Boasts

7 Another Litote Example
When Grendel’s mother makes a revenge attack and murders a king’s man the poet observes “no good bargain that they had to pay with the life of a friend.” “bargain” and “pay” are mild terms in comparison to the horror of what happened

8 Gnomic Sayings Short sayings with a moral or ethical basis; general observations about common concerns of life. Sometimes a general truth is stated, a simple observation based on human experience wise sayings or 'lore' . 'Gnomic' means wisdom and the verses reveal interesting things about the society and the world view of the people who made them. Although the verses do not rhyme, they have a distinct rhythm which makes them memorable. This was a common function of 'poetry' in ancient times: the rhythms helped people to remember important information. Example: It was wise on his part to leave her room. Examples: lines 24-5 as ‘Behavior that’s admired / is that path to power among people everywhere’

9 Lay a short narrative focusing on one incident
Digressions Example: The Fight at Finnsburg Heremond

10 Epithet Rarely mentioned only by name Use of an identifier Examples:
Hrothgar, ring-giver, a gold friend Beowulf, Ecgtheow’s son

11 Poetic Analysis of lines 130-237
Identify 12 examples of alliteration Cite the line, underline the alliterated words Identify 7 examples of kennings Cite the line, underline the kenning, identify what the kenning means Write a detailed summary of what occurs in lines How does understanding these poetic devices help us better understand the meaning of the poem?

12 Assignment: your group must write your own examples of the following devices:
5 examples of alliteration (I suggest writing a short poem to do so) 5 examples of kennings (using modern day people or things) 5 examples of similes (must then show the comparison and commonality) 1 example o varying diction (write a sentence or two with an elevated diction write the same sentence with a simple diction) 2 examples of litotes (show why it is a litote) 2 examples of gnomic sayings (explain them)

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