Beowulf Historical Context

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The epic Beowulf, written between the mid-seventh and the late tenth centuries A.D., tells of the adventures of a high-ranking warrior of the Geats, a tribe located in Sweden. Hearing of a kingdom in Denmark that is threatened by a monster, Beowulf sails across the sea to rescue the people. He fights and kills two monsters, then returns to the land of the Geats.

Wilbur's response to the epic is to change the Anglo-Saxon attitude toward heroes into a world-weary postwar sensibility. While he retains the original setting, he incorporates modern feelings into his lyric retelling. The critic Bruce Michelson sees the dreaminess of the landscape and its inhabitants as "dreams which have turned toward nightmare" - a possible reference to events of World War II. According to critic Rodney Edgecombe, Wilbur takes the repetition of language that is common in epic...

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This section contains 373 words
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Buy the Beowulf Study Guide
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Poetry for Students
Beowulf from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.