Narrative Pulse of Beowulf

Narrative Pulse of Beowulf: Arrivals and Departures

JOHN M. HILL
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 136
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442688674
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  • Book Info
    Narrative Pulse of Beowulf
    Book Description:

    John M. Hill discerns a distinctive 'narrative pulse' arising out of the poem's many scenes of arrival and departure. He argues that such scenes, far from being fixed or 'type' scenes, are socially dramatic and a key to understanding the structural density of the poem.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8867-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. [Acknowledgments]
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE The Narrative Pulse of Beowulf: Arrivals and Departures
    (pp. 3-20)

    There is much to be said for large-scale, structural views ofBeowulf, beginning with Tolkien’s view of the famous poem in two balanced parts (representing an ‘opposition of ends and beginnings,’ youth and age, and ‘first achievement and final death’); or we might consider a three-part division, as say, H. L. Rogers, Kathryn Hume, John D. Niles, and others have suggested, focused on the three monster fights; or else, more capaciously, Gale R. Owen-Crocker’s three movements and a coda fixed to the still points of four funerals ‘from which thematic patterns radiate’ within elliptical structures.¹ In story-line terms, that is,...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Beowulf’s Sudden Arrival and Danish Challenges: Nothing Said Is Merely a Formality
    (pp. 21-42)

    Beowulf, perhaps in part impetuous and ambitious, no sooner hears of Grendel’s deeds, news that must include the long duration of Danish suffering, than he decides to help. He, the strongest warrior in those days of this life, noble and huge, would seek the battle king over the swan-road because he, that battle king, is in ‘need’ (þearf) of men. Aside from personal ambition and the lure of glory, the socially compelling possibility for Beowulf is that the illustrious lord and battle king, Hrothgar, is in need. Here ‘need’ can mean simply something to fear, as in a dire need;...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Arrival of Joy after Grendel’s Departure, and a Momentous Question: Succession or Not?
    (pp. 43-64)

    From the moment he returns to Heorot on the morning after Grendel’s defeat, Hrothgar, while committed to rewarding Beowulf handsomely – ‘Ne biþ þe wilna gad, / gif þu þæt ellenweorc aldre gedigest’ (ll.660b–661), moves both regally and aggressively. He seizes the social moment by tring to increase and indeed exploit the promise of this glorious scene in which many come to see Grendel’s arm and shoulder.¹ Hrothgar comes from his queen’s apartment or chamber, the ring hoard’s lord, having walked or stepped (a stately progress, no doubt) ‘firm in glory’ (‘tryddode tirfæst,’ l. 922a). That phrase about glory strikes...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Beowulf’s Homecoming with ‘Celeritas’ and Loyalty
    (pp. 65-74)

    Beowulf’s homecoming receives a mainly perfunctory response from readers, at least for the passages not concerned with the Hygd-Modthryth comparison or Beowulf’s anticipation of feud in his account of the prospective marriage, arranged by Hrothgar, between Freawaru and Ingeld. Readers have also responded to Beowulf’s retelling of events, their interest focusing almost exclusively on his skills as an oral teller or narrator or as an entertainer in the hall.¹ But even the sections involving travel, reception, and greeting require careful attention. They are not transitional and are socially more dynamic than they seem when read as type scenes, for example...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Dragon’s Arrival and Beowulf’s Two Departures: Deep Luck Runs Out
    (pp. 75-90)

    As many have noted, the energy and narrative complexity of the poem’s second part contrasts notably with its first, seeming to go downhill. The lament of the last survivor tonally initiates an elegiac mood, a swirling theme of sad entropy. In fact the narrative pulse is nearly the opposite of that in the poem’s opening, where prosperity and dynastic mastery grow before the advent of a terrible ghoul – a creature who eventually meets his nemesis, with hall and land purged of his and then his mother’s pollution. This time, however, there is no establishing of succession and then a splendid...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 91-96)

    Clearly the poet looks back to a much earlier time, while in past tense perspective bringing that world forward toward his own – a world we know historically as institutionally more complex, especially given church and clergy, king and court; it was socially stratified for different levels of nobility and landholdings, included slavery, and was economically organized for both mundane and prestige trade (with coinage, emporia, and mints). Moreover, in Alfred’s day, through a well-framed law code, even if its sometimes random contents often only gesture toward completeness, and also through an educational program for great men, the king’s administration is...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 97-110)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 111-116)
  12. Index
    (pp. 117-120)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 121-122)