Study Guide

Beowulf Writing Style

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Writing Style


Majestic, Grandiose, Gruesome

Apart from the poetic qualities of the alliterative verse in which Beowulf is written (see "Genre" for more on that), the epic has a grand, majestic style that seems to lift you up as you read it.

Beowulf isn't just a hero, he's a "prince of goodness" (676). Grendel isn't just a demon, he's a "captain of evil" (749). Beowulf isn't just trying to win a wrestling contest for the Danes, he's going to "ease their afflictions" (628).

Of course, all these phrases are in translation, but you get the idea. In Beowulf, you never just take off a necklace; you unclasp a collar of gold from your neck in your great-heartedness (2809)—now that's a grandiose statement.

Of course, sometimes all this grandeur and majesty gives way to gruesome descriptions of violent deaths. Grendel doesn't just eat a man; he "bit into his bone-lappings, bolted down his blood / and gorged on him in lumps" (741-742).

We recommend that you eat one to two hours before reading Beowulf and give your meal a chance to settle, because otherwise you might end up feeling just a little sick.

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