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An analysis of ‘Beowulf’

As the norm in my old English Language and Literature class, this is an analytical essay regarding the connotations and other important features of the Medieval epic, ‘Beowulf’.

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An analysis of ‘Beowulf’

The three Medieval Texts each offer a different medium of contextual resources through their contrasting non-fictional (Robert Earl of Huntingdon and Da Vinci) and fictional (Beowulf) content, thus foregrounding various aspects of the Medieval era to the audience. The three pieces offer an insight into controversial themes, that were taboo in an era of religion, knighthoods and superstition, in varying formats.
As an oral heroic epic, Beowulf only exists in manuscript form as a translation from Anglo-Sazxon or Old English, as it’s sometimes known. This can relate to the Mirror-image coding secrecy used by Da Vinci. The Beowulf extract begins with a proper noun to emphasise the protagonists strength. It is followed by ‘got ready’, two stative verbs that seem almost non-standard English due to the blunt monosyllabic ‘got’ being relatable to ‘to have obtained’, however, this could possibly highlight the strength at which Beowulf prepared himself. The first part of the extract itself is mainly monosyllabic, giving the rhythm a sharp delivery that, when paired up with a polysllabic term, often creates a consonance. This sound patterning is present throughout each line that follows each commencing line: ‘donned’/‘death’, ‘mighty’/‘mail’, ‘meet’/‘menace’. (Examples of voiced alveoli plosives and bilabial consonants.) The first examples of alliteration typographically graduate towards the middle of the line, increasing the pace and adding suspense. There is symmetry in the line, ‘his mighty, hand-forged, fine-webbed mail’ as the sound patterns are parallel to one another, apart from the word ‘webbed’.  The Robert Earl of Huntingdon elegy harbours lateral approximants (‘Lies’, ‘like’, ‘li’ in ‘little’) and velarised lateral approximants, (‘full’, ‘wildness’, ‘le’ in ‘little’) that give the piece a lulling melody, almost mirroring a ‘la-la-la’ tune. As scientific factual notes, the Da Vinci Anatomy extract, is free from sound patternings and creative rhythmic techniques often affiliated with more creative excerpts. On the other hand, unlike other typical portfolios of scientific research, ethe sentences within the piece are imperative (‘Remember that to be certain…’) and reflect an instruction manual. This is often related to Beowulf as there are extracts that also resemble guidance. ‘Behaviour that’s admired in the path to power among people everywhere’ – Lines 24-25 There is also a presence of shorthand note-taking with Da Vinci, thus decreasing the presence of detail and influencing the use of comparative imagery to make it more relatable to those without educational backgrounds. ‘…after the manner of linen threads…’ The Anatomy piece is abundant in asyndetic listing, also adding to the list format in which it is written. There is also evidence to suggest that the research would be somewhat contraversial in an era dominated by the Catholic Church, therefore incorporating the use of Informal register, relating to oral projection. This can relate to the original form of Beowulf, as it was often performed for audiences at court or on the road.. The teller would sing or chant the poem, rather than recite it, usually to the accompaniment of a harp. A theme present in all three pieces of literature is controversy. In Beowulf, there is controversy regarding the murder of men by Grendel, in the Robert Earl of Huntingdon tombstone, there is controversy in the actions of Robert, (‘vexed sore’) and finally, in the Da Vinci notes, there is controversy in the way that his research belittles the religious beliefs of the Medieval era. Robert Earl of Huntingdon is downplayed and belittled by the pre-modifying adjective ‘little’ used to describe his gravestone. (This is apparent due to the typography resembling a tombstone shape.) The verb ‘lies’ could be interpreted as both a dynamic verb and stative verb as it could subtly foreground Robert’s deveitful ways or simply indicate the position in which he was buried. The syntax of the piece often foregrounds the negative aspects of the subject whilst foreshadowing his positive effects, i.e. his skills. ‘No archer was like him so good’, this phrase begins to note that there was no other man similar to the subject, whilst the ‘so good’ at the end only mentions that skill he possessed. As an elegy, the rhyme patterning of the extract follows a syllable count of 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, thus indicating that ‘vexed’ is given a polysllabic structure to follow the count. The semantic fields in the three medieval texts differ and yet compliment each other at the same time. The savagery lexis (‘wildness’/‘vexed’/‘out-laws’), the war-like lexis (‘helmet’/‘weapon-smith’/‘headgear’) and the anatomical lexis (‘muscles’/‘sinew’/‘bones’) almost follow each other as such events evolve. The uprise, (savage) the fight (war) and finally, the death (‘anatomical’).



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