1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5 : 6 : 7 : 8

  1. With reference to Cædmon (NAEL 8, 1.24–27), Widsith, and Hrothgar's scop (NAEL 8, 1.36, lines 86–98), characterize the role and art of the Germanic oral poet. In what respects is the Beowulf poet like such a scop, in what respects not?
  2. Satan's speeches in Genesis B seem to anticipate those in Book 1 of Paradise Lost (NAEL 8, 1.1831-50). The fact that Milton knew Francis Junius (1589–1677), the Dutch scholar who had the manuscript in his possession and who lived many years in England during the seventeenth century, presents a tempting possibility, although not a certainty, that Junius described to Milton, who had a better command of Greek and Latin than of Anglo-Saxon, the contents of the manuscript. Compare Satan's speeches in Genesis B with those in Paradise Lost, Book One. Whether or not Milton had access to the poem, what similarities (e.g., characterization, psychology, irony, theology) are there between the work of the Saxon poet and Milton? What differences? How does each poet "justify the ways of God to man"?
  3. Glam tells Grettir, "I cannot take away from you what you already have, but I can see to it that you will never be stronger than you are now, and yet you are strong enough, as many will find to their cost." Had Grendel been able to foresee Beowulf's future, might he have made a similar prophecy? Compare Beowulf's strength in the fight with Grendel with his strength in the fight with Grendel's mother and with the dragon. Is there a pattern here, and, if so, what is its significance?
  4. In what ways, both in terms of setting and psychology, does Germanic literature deal with themes of isolation? Consider The Dream of the Rood, Beowulf, The Wanderer, The Wife's Lament, and the Saxon Genesis.
  5. Compare the use of Christian ideas in Beowulf with the use of Christian ideology in the Saxon Genesis, particularly with respect to the nature of sin and punishment.
  6. In Beowulf and in the Grettir Saga, in spite of the differences between poetry and prose, is there a common element of ironic understatement that represents something as very much less in magnitude than it really is, or is ordinarily considered to be? One form of it is the figure of speech called litotes, the assertion of an affirmative by negating its contrary, e.g., "He's not the brightest man in the world" meaning "He's stupid." For an example in Beowulf, see NAEL 8, 1.6.
  7. The Beowulf poet refers to Grendel twice (NAEL 8, 1.50, line 786, and 1.69, line 1682) by the formula "Godes andsaca" (glossed as "God's enemy, adversary" and translated by Heaney as "hell-serf" and "God-cursed fiend" [English fiend is etymologically related to German Feind, which still means enemy]. Does the same concept or expression also fit Satan (Saxon Genesis), Loki (Edda), and Glam (Grettir Saga)? What motivates the villains in early Germanic literature? What is their relationship to the Christian God or the Germanic gods?

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