Digressions in the Epic Poem, Beowulf Essay

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Digressions in Beowulf

A prominent stylistic feature in the poem Beowulf is the number and length of digressions. “Much of the controversy surrounding the poet’s digressiveness has arisen from the fact that we have not yet discovered or admitted why he digresses in the first place” (Tripp 63). In this essay we hope to help answer that question.

The longest digression, almost 100 verses, is the story of Finn, which is here explored. In “The Finn Episode and Revenge in Beowulf” Martin Camargo states:

The allusive manner of its telling has long taxed the abilities of philologists to determine the precise sense of the lines, while its position within the narrative has challenged the ingenuity of a
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So the beginning of the Finnsburh story anticipates the coming attack. Digressions seem sometimes to be secondary narratives competing with the main story line (Tripp 63), but in this case the digression seems at the outset to support or complement the main narrative. The story continues:

No need at all that Hildeburh praise

the faith of the “giants”; guiltless herself,

she lost her loved ones in that clash of shields,

her son and brother - they were born to fall,

slain by spear-thrusts. She knew deep grief.

Not without cause did Hoc’s daughter mourn

the web’s short measure that fated morning

when she saw their bodies, her murdered kinsmen,

under the skies where she had known

her greatest joy (1071-80)

Hildeburh, wife of Finn and sister of Hnaef, lost these two family as well as a son, in this battle renewed after the harsh winter conditions passed. Both here and in a later passage is mentioned her extreme sorrow and mourning. Hildeburh is comparable to the wives and mothers of the many Danish thanes killed by Grendel. She is a contrasting character to Finn and to Hengest,

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