By Sterling Professor of the Humanities Harold Bloom
This version of Bloom’s Notes makes a speciality of the Beowulf, and a dialogue of the identification of the prospective writer or authors. A structural and thematic research of the poem is incorporated, in addition to a number of serious essays from well-liked critics provide quite a few perspectives at the piece. This sequence is edited via Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the arts, Yale college; Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Professor of English, long island college Graduate university. those texts are the proper reduction for all scholars of literature, featuring concise, easy-to-understand biographical, serious, and bibliographical info on a particular literary paintings. additionally supplied are a number of resources for ebook stories and time period papers with a wealth of data on literary works, authors, and significant characters.
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As a fighter and as a “visitor” to the Danish hall that he devastates, he is often treated ironically as a peculiar kind of human warrior. But he is set off from ordinary warriors in one respect, for example, because, as Beowulf points out, for all his courage and ferocity he does not even know how to fight with a sword: Nat he þara goda þæt he me ongean slea, rand geheawe, þeah ðe he rof sie niþgeweorca; ac wit on niht sculon secge ofersittan. (681–84a) He has no knowledge of how to fight properly, to swing sword against me and hew at my shield, even though he is brave in his savage attacks; no, tonight we must do without swords, the two of us.
Here hwæþere serves as the rhetorical fulcrum. We are told that, on the one hand, God, by giving Heremod the same gift of heroic strength he has given Beowulf, has encouraged him and raised him above other men. But Heremod suddenly turns to evil, and to a particular form of evil (stinginess, not giving rings) that is peculiarly ironic in view of God’s generosity toward him. 45 The very willfulness of his behavior is signaled by the abrupt adversative transitions hwæþere and nallas. The expression “not giving rings” is in fact here a notable understatement, since Heremod apparently murders his subjects.
The semantic rhythm here is positive (swa sceal mæg don)—negative (the nealles clause)—positive (Beowulfâ†œ’s own loyalty). From a different point of view one could see it as constructed in another way: the first two parts are statements of ethical alternatives, while the third is a specific instance of choice. Beowulf has chosen one of the two possible modes of behavior. What is done in miniature in this brief passage is done on a larger scale in the scene as a whole. Into this scene of absolute and dedicated fidelity in Hygelac’s hall the poet introduces a flood of dark reminders of treachery in Heorot, chiefly through references to Hrothgar (2155), to Hrothgar’s queen Wealhtheow and the marvelous necklace she gave Beowulf at the great banquet, and to an unnamed hypothetical nonhero 51 who bears some resemblance both to Unferth and to the evil Danish king Heremod, as we can see in the following passage: Swa bealdode bearn Ecgðeowes, guma guðum cuð, godum dædum, dreah æfter dome, nealles druncne slog heorðgeneatas; næs him hreoh sefa, ac he mancynnes mæste cræfte ginfæstan gife, þe him god sealde, heold hildedeor.