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The Foreign Beowulf And The “Fight At Finnsburh”

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Chapter Summary

Antitheses in the digressions of Beowulf converge on a fundamental distinction between the warband and leader, and express an unresolved worry that a kings ambition might compromise the nations security. In the Grendel fight Beowulf has shown himself to be potentially ambitious and callous, eager for glory, and scornful of the ordinary mans abilities against an inhuman adversary. The Beowulf poet undoubtedly intended his audience to identify Finnsburh as a gidd and, correspondingly, to have it bear a prophetic meaning deducible from the narrative. Finnsburh concerns a dishonorable night attack on guests and an honorable defense leading to a sworn truce between Hengest and Finn. The Finnsburh poet poses questions of revenge and feuding, to be sure, but he centrally features a foreign-born leader whose interests lean towards self-promotion rather than an expected good, the natural retaliation for betrayal, murder, and humiliation.

Keywords: Finnsburh; foreign Beowulf

10.1163/ej.9789004171701.i-420.33
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