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Introduction - A Contested Beowulf

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Chapter Summary

Beowulf seems to succumb to pride (or its Germanic equivalent), a notorious vice inimical to Christian humility. Identifying, dating, and localizing the poem and its hypothesized audience might resolve the discrepant accounts of Beowulf s character. Robinsons study contemplates how the Beowulf poet was deeply moved by the strength, generosity, wisdom, and eloquence of secular heroes. Robert Kaskes famous essay on sapientia and fortitudo in Beowulf sets out to recover wisdom and strength in the hero along the lines of Roman virtus. Beowulf represents a liminal figure of pre-eminent ability whose potentially courageous actions can also seem just as potentially reckless, especially to those who lack his gifts. Comparison of Beowulf to prominent wreccan suggests the liminal behavior that characterizes Beowulf s exceptionality. The Beowulf poet has manipulated a literary paradigm and depicted a character that balances the irrational with the humane.

Keywords: Beowulf poet; Robert Kaske; Roman virtus; wreccan



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