Beowulf question 8/30 (10:50)

How does the repetition of “appositive style” (what we talked about in class on tuesday, ex. Beowulf, Slayer of Grendel) contribute to how we perceive different characters and their roles in the story?

16 thoughts on “Beowulf question 8/30 (10:50)

  1. The repetition of appositives gives a clear view of what we as readers (or listeners) should expect from certain characters. It ensures that there is a nearly uniform opinion of each of the characters; repeatedly calling them noble, or “protector of the Scyldings” leaves a positive impression. Given those epithets, it is difficult to see Hrothgar as anything else. We are supposed to feel badly for Hrothgar, not blame him. That would change the story completely. The assumptions that the audience makes are factored into the rest of the story.

    • I agree that the repetition of appositives definitely sets the tone for what you are to expect from each character. I think it would have been especially helpful when Beowulf was told orally. Because the stories were told as entertainment, giving each character a number of titles really sets the scene and increases the dramatics. It also helps the audience have a clear picture of each character, and allows them to keep each character separate. Giving “titles” to the characters help understand why the characters treat each other the way they do, and tell you how you (the audience) are supposed to feel about them. Since characters are sometimes given very little description, the repetition of appositives gives you the only basis to form your opinion, and then ingrains that opinion in your mind as you continue reading the story.

      • Being a first-time reader of Beowulf, the names can become confusing, so the repetition of their “taglines” helps to keep them and their histories separate. It seems to me that as the epic goes on (more so in the second half that we read), the appositives become more and more frequent. It could be that I am just following the story better the second time around. I also agree with Angela in that the appositives help to define the opinions that the reader will form of the characters…perhaps in case the opinions of the speakers vary, which would surely change the epic completely once passed on a few times.

        • I think it is important, as was it with a previous question asked on Beowulf, (referring to his classification as arrogant) to note the difference in time between when the poem was written and today, when it is being interpreted. The tag lines and use of such excessive appositive style I think was meant, in its original, to help as much with the sound and performance of the piece as with the characterization of the men in the story. As a modern reader we see the tags as a big help in keeping the characters straight in our heads but to me it seems doubtful that that was the intention of the writer. I think it is more likely that the goal of a poetic flow was more in mind when the appositive was put to use.

  2. The repetition of the appositive style contributes to how we perceive the different characters and their roles in the story. Appositives offer a continual reminder for the reader. The appositives that are used are facts pertaining to each character which influences how the audience should think about each of them. Therefore, the appositives not only are a good way for the reader to keep the characters separate from one another but reinforces what the audience should believe about each character.

  3. The repetition of the appositive style is very helpful for the reader when reading an old english poem like Beowulf. Not only does the appositive style work as a helpful reminder of some of the characters it also helps up understand where in the story we are. Reading or hearing Beowulf over and over again for 3182 lines would be very repetitive but with the help of appositive styles and calling Beowulf the son of Ecgtheow or slayer of Grendel helps the reader stay interested. It also helps us perceive the characters in a way of being a hero or an evil character. Appositive style helps us the reader to better understand the characters with these few descriptive words following their name or in some cases replacing their names.

  4. I agree completely with the same name (ex: Beowulf) becoming repetitive, but i do believe that the appositive style does more than just prevent the story from becoming dull. While characters such as Beowulf and Hrothgar have multiple descriptions every time their name is mentioned throughout the story, other characters do not. The use of appositive style shows the importance or level of prestige of the characters because it uses positive terms to describe them. On the rare occasion that a character is mentioned without a description to follow, one can quickly draw the conclusion that that character is not one to pay that much attention to.

  5. The appositive style throughout the poem Beowulf is a additive in many ways to the piece of writing. In one way it provides the audience with background information on the characters because it is going into detail about the status or family of the character. There are various clear examples of this with Beowulf. This style also allows for the reader to look at the character from many different angles and learn more key points about their life. It seemed to me that the appositive style also symbolized a character’s importance and either their positive or negative role in the poem. However, while reading the poem I found myself becoming very confused because of the appositive style that was used. I was constantly looking back to earlier parts in the story to make it clear to myself who the appositive references were referring to.

  6. I agree that the repetition of appositives absolutely helps establish the characters and their importance in the poem. However, I do find it confusing, especially when trying to follow the story line. When this poem was orally presented the plot was probably more familiar to the audience. While reading the poem I had to pay specific attention to the footnotes as well as the character glossary at the end of the poem. The use of appositives as Jessica stated, is absolutely important to each characters status, especially when referring to the more prominent roles in the poem. This definitely helped me toward the beginning of the poem when I was just becoming familiar with Hrothgar. The only time I found that the appositives didn’t necessarily help with the characterization, was when they referred to as “the son of” someone. Overall, the repetition of the appositive style did help to contribute to my understanding of the poem.

  7. I agree with Angela and several others in that the appositives shed clear light on each of the characters. We perceive them how we are told to and because the appositives tell us exactly who we are to remember them as, there is little room for confusion and the tone surrounding each character is all the more clear and precise. I appreciated what Anna brought up about how the appositives would’ve been used as these stories were being told orally. I wonder, however, if maybe they would be less necessary in an oral telling of the story? Maybe the story-teller’s tone of voice, for instance, a tone of pity for Hrothgar, or one of reverence for Beowulf, would have served the exact purpose that the appositives serve for those of us looking at the inherited text? Just a thought.

  8. In my opinion, the appositive style that is seen in Beowulf can be both helpful and confusing to the audience. For me, it took me awhile to have a clear understanding of the characters and their backgrounds. So, at first, the repetition of names and other phrases used for a character was hard to understand and led to me having to take extra time trying to piece everything together. However, once my grasp on the storyline and character roles/identities became more clear, the use of a character’s name along with a word or phrase to help describe them became helpful and added to the overall story. I think this style is a way for the author of the story to add in subtle background information about the character and his/her history/past experiences in life. With the use of appositive phrasing, the readers begin to associate the character with certain personality traits and/or background information that they might not have otherwise.

  9. Modern literature is always up for interpretation. The reader of modern literature has the ability to use his/her paradigm to gain an understanding and meaning from the text. However, the appositive style discourages “out-of-the-box” interpretations, especially with regards to characterization. This can be helpful because it offers facts and lessons in simplicity: good vs. bad, right vs. wrong. However, the appositive style discourages the reader from experiencing the text from their own perspective.

  10. I believe that this appositive style emphasizes the origins and/or the outstanding qualities of the character being named. Lineage seems to be a very important part of this culture and people were probably thought of based on who their parents were rather than who they (the person being named) were. We can see this change as the character being named gains glory and respect and, therefore, recognition for himself and his achievements rather than relying on his lineage for recognition. Beowulf is described almost equally as the “son of Ecgtheow” and other titles such as “brave warrior” or “hardy man”. Showing how he is respected amongst his peers.

  11. The appositive style used in Beowulf helps the reader clearly understand the roles of the characters in the story. Using appositives tells the reader exactly what character traits the character has. It also helps develop the background of the characters for the reader, such as past deeds or existing relationships. The repetitive use of appositives also help reiterate important characteristics that the reader needs to know.

  12. The repetition of appositive style helps to give readers a better understanding as to what we should expect from each character. By giving each character a number of titles, appositive style helps to set the scene and guarantees an opinion for each character; it also adds drama to the story. Since the names in Beowulf can be hard to remember, the repetition of these titles, or “taglines”, helps to keep the histories/stories of each character separate. I agree completely that Beowulf would be much harder to comprehend if it weren’t for appositive style.

  13. The repetition of appositive style helps paint a clearer picture for the reader/ listener. By repeating different descriptions of the same characters, it allows the reader to progress with the story, but also remind him/her about who the character is and how to react with that character’s actions. If a character isn’t as well known as some of the others, the use of appositive style provides a better way to introduce the character into the story.

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