For the questions below, choose ONE to which to respond.
OPTION ONE: Beowulf and monsters in the epic
Beowulf faces three monsters in the epic poem (i.e., NOT the film): Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. Which of the three represents the greatest challenge to Beowulf? Why? In your response, be sure to closely analyze the language of the Heaney translation.
OPTION TWO: Protagonists and Antagonists in Beowulf
Arguably, Beowulf deals with protagonists and antagonists differently than does Homer’s Iliad or Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex. Write an essay in which you define “protagonist” and “antagonist” as they apply to Oedipus and/or Achilles. It may help to re-read the introduction to both Sophocles and Homer in doing so. Then discuss how Beowulf contains a changed understanding of “protagonist,” using either Hrothgar, or Beowulf, or any other possible protagonist, as an example. Do the same with “antagonist” using an example from the poem.
OPTION THREE the Scariest and Worth the Most
Grendel in translation from Anglo-Saxon into English (up to 3 points of Extra Credit available for a complete response to the prompt below).
Throughout class this quarter, we have discussed how TRANSLATION is an act of INTERPRETATION or ANALYSIS, in which the translator has to decide what he thinks the original text means in moments that are puzzling, or confusing, or ambiguous. Once the translator interprets the text, he then tries to include this interpretation, somehow, in English.
For instance, Lombardo’s Iliad decides to focus on the pleasure warriors take in insulting each other, their invective a form of art: “You sack of wine!” In this way, he emphasizes how Achilles’s and Agamemnon’s arguments are as funny as they are frightening or serious, which brings these “heroes” down to earth.
Review the introduction to Beowulf, especially the bottom of page 888 and page 889, which highlights the rhythmic and structural qualities of the Old English line, including alliteration and caesura (also defined in your Terminology Sheet for Beowulf and in class).
Consult your print out (also found in your BB folder for Audio and Visual Supplements to Beowulf) which includes five translations of the introduction of Grendel into the epic poem: the Seamus Heaney translation we’ve read for class from the Norton Anthology, one by Kevin Crossely-Holland, one by Marijane Osborn, one by Frances B. Grummere, and one by Michael Alexander. The original Anglo-Saxon version of the lines is at the bottom.
Then, write a reflective essay that does the following:
1. Define, in your own words, alliteration and caesura, and give one example of each from the Anglo-Saxon lines at the bottom of the handout. Just quote the Anglo-Saxon as it appears on the handout (you don’t have to worry about typing strange accents or letters).
For instance, you might write,
we find alliteration in the ‘w’ sound in “wlitebeorhtne wang” and “waeter”‘ in the eighth line of the Anglo-Saxon stanza,
we find caesura between ‘scopes’ and ‘Saegde’ in the fifth line of the Anglo-Saxon stanza
2. Explain, in the Seamus Heany tranlsation, how alliteration and caesura reflect Heaney’s attitude toward Grendel, and his understanding of the Christian scribe’s attitude toward Grendel. For instance, doesHeaney’s translation interpret Grendel as a nightmarish monster or a creature who inspires empathy, or both?
For instance, you might write:
Heaney uses the repeated ‘h’ sound to connect Grendel’s sense of loneliness and exile from human companionship with his hearing of the music, in words like “harrowed,” “hear,” “hall,” and “harp.” Since “harrowed” means to “torment” or “terrify,” this alliteration shows how the hall, in which the harp plays, represents the human companionship from which Grendel is exiled–and so the hall terrifies him, reminds him of his unfortunate birth, and he only strikes to protect himself. This qualifies how monstrous Grendel seems, making him more sympathetic.
3. Finally, compare and contrast any other (single) translation on the handout, focusing on the tone toward Grendel.
For instance, you might write:
As sympathetic as Heaney’s translation is to Grendel, Michael Alexander’s is even more sympathetic. Instead of a “powerful demon” (which highlights the sins of the fathers and Grendel’s hellish being) in Heaney, Alexander introduces Grendel as a spirit suffering from pain, “It was with pain that the powerful spirit…” So Alexander’s translation underlines Grendel’s spirit or soul, which he has in common with humans.