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Poetic Devices in Beowulf. Alliteration- two initial consonant sounds repeated A. Used in modern poetry, but more extensive in Anglo-Saxon literature.

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Presentation on theme: "Poetic Devices in Beowulf. Alliteration- two initial consonant sounds repeated A. Used in modern poetry, but more extensive in Anglo-Saxon literature."— Presentation transcript:

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 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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