Reading Response on the Beowulf Funeral Essay Example

Beowulf is a great epic poem, written between the 7th and 10th centuries in Old English. The poem survives today in a single manuscript! If the manuscript had been lost, or more badly damaged in an eighteenth-century fire, we wouldn't know of Beowulf's existence. As it is, the work is seen as foundational to English literature. In part, this is due to the scholarly work of none other than J.R.R. Tolkien, who loved the poem and argued for its stature as a masterpiece.

The title suggests to the reader that the text tells about a funeral, probably of a famous character. The character in fact is Beowulf, an ancient hero from Scandinavia, protagonist of the namesake poem. Therefore, I expect to read a dramatic text that probably speaks of death and pain and maybe even the memory of the exploits of the character.

The layout of the poem is typical of Anglo-Saxon poets;they used alliterative verse, a form of verse in which the first half of the line is linked to the second half through similarity in initial sound.

The text can be divided in three parts: the first one (lines 1-13) tells about the pain of the warriors and the people for the death of their king, while the body of the brave lord burns and is cremated; in the Scandinavian countries the custom of burning was common from the latter half of the bronze age. The heathen Anglo-Saxons practised both cremation and interment and the obsequies of Beowulf remind us in several respects of the famous funeral ceremonies of the classical epics.

It is the peculiarity of the Beowulf account that two distinct and, as it were, parallel funeral ceremonies are related in detail, the burning and the consigning of the ashes to the monumental mound, and that the greater emphasis is placed on the closing stage, which is made the occasion of rehearsing solemn and inspiring songs sounding an almost. The second part (lines 14-19) focus on the song of the woman that sconsolated thinks about how they will now resist the enemy invasion without the strength of their king, Beowulf was in fact their most valiant warrior, alone had made great companies and in life had always assured protection to his people. The third section (lines 20-36) speaks of construction of the imposing and valuable monument built on a promontory, to be visible to mariners, for the great lord and the last farewell of his warriors who leave him a funeral equipment full of riches.

The vocabulary used is particularly linked to the war (helmets, shields, warriors) and the mainly verb tense is the simple past. There are a lot of adjectives in all the text that highlight the great pain suffered by the people for the death of the king, these words make it clear what the situation is dramatic for them because they know they have more no man strong enough to defend them.

We can find a kenning at line 11 when the body of the king is called “bone-house”.