Loneliness and Victory: Richard Wilbur’s Retelling of Beowulf

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Richard Wilbur – Author of Beowulf

Richard Wilbur retells the epic Beowulf in a poem. He concentrates on the hero’s feelings and experiences. He shows that being a hero can be lonely work.

Wilbur focuses on the hero’s melancholy emotions. He reveals that Beowulf feels alienated from the people he saves, even the Danes themselves.

He hints that this isolation is due to his having no son.

Richard Wilbur

Richard Wilbur, who died in 2017 at age 96, was the author of 14 poetry collections including Things of This World (1956), which won the Pulitzer Prize. He also published a handful of children’s books and multiple translations, notably of seventeenth-century French plays by Moliere and Racine.

He is an expert in the language of the Anglo-Saxons, and his knowledge allows him to discuss such issues as meter and rhyme, but in a way that is not overly technical. His book is a useful one for anyone who wants to gain a greater understanding of the text.

Beowulf is an ancient poem about a Scandinavian hero who slays man-eating monsters. It was anonymous when it was written and has long been the subject of intense scholarly debate over its origins. The poem has survived in only one manuscript, copied on vellum and dated around 1000 CE. There are many speculative reasons for its lack of provenance, but they all have their limitations.

The Hero’s Loneliness

The only manuscript that survives of Beowulf shows that two separate scribes worked on it, probably not at the same time. Based on differences in their handwriting styles, it is estimated that the poem was written between 1000 AD (when Beowulf’s father died) and 1025 AD when the manuscript was transcribed. However, the text itself may have been composed much earlier and passed down in oral form for 70+ years before being recorded.

The author of Beowulf is unknown, but scholars have a variety of theories. The poem is an epic that combines Christian visions of pagan heroic life with epic hyperbole. It is also an exemplar of a monomyth, the story that evokes the three archetypes of the process of human heroism: Shadow, Anima and Self. It influenced the fantasy work of J.R.R. Tolkien and many others, including a whole genre of literature that has been called Tolkienism. It also helped launch the modern science of textual criticism.

The Hero’s Victory

Ultimately, Beowulf’s victory is a triumph of his own bravery and integrity. Beowulf’s decision to save his king and destroy Grendel was the defining moment of his life. It is through this courageous act that Beowulf solidifies his place as an epic hero.

It is important to remember that Beowulf is a story about an Anglo-Saxon hero. Despite the similarities between Beowulf and tales such as Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid, it was never meant to be a religious poem.

Beowulf only survives in one manuscript, and scholars do not know who wrote it. However, a recent study shows that using stylometry (a technique that looks at everything from how often words appear together to the way they are used) supports the theory that Beowulf was composed by a single poet named Cynewulf around 1000 AD. This evidence, along with other studies, has encouraged many scholars to reconsider a theory that has been discredited for over half a century.

The Hero’s Return

Beowulf is the earliest surviving poem written in English. The poem was probably composed around 1000 C.E, though it may have been recorded earlier and much of it composed before that.

The only manuscript of the poem shows two different scribes working on it independently. The study of their handwriting styles allows for an estimate of the time in which the poem was composed, between 570 AD (based on the death of Hygelac) and 1025 AD.

Beowulf is not without its crackpot theories. One such claim is that Beowulf’s king, Hrothgar, is modelled on Vergil’s sibyl, who guides Aeneas through the underworld (North misquotes on page 177). Another claim is that Beowulf’s character is based on an early seventh-century scholar from Breedon, Tatwine, who mentions philosophia in his work and seems to have read Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae. This is unlikely, however. The author of Beowulf was almost certainly a native of Geatland, or modern Sweden.

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