Who cursed whom, and when? The cursing of the hoard and Beowulf’s fate


Who cursed whom, and when? The cursing of the hoard and Beowulf’s fate
William Cooke
Medium Ævum: Vol. 76 Issue 2 (2007)
The article provides an interpretation to lines 3051-3075 of the epic poem “Beowulf,” concerning the death of Beowulf and the curse on the dragon’s treasure. It outlines the actions contained in the passage, including Beowulf’s slaying of a dragon, his mortal wound, and the actions of his people following his death. It discusses various translations and readings of the passage, and focuses particularly on readings of the curse on the dragon’s hoard.
For over forty years, critics have keenly and at times hotly debated Beowulf’s fate. Eric Stanley’s view that the poet represents him as damned by the working of the curse laid on the dragon’s hoard has been ably and widely supported, perhaps most effectively by A.J. Bliss’s arguments from syntax and lexicography. (1) But while endorsing their analysis of the syntax, Bruce Mitchell has lodged repeated protests on behalf of the many readers who cannot accept an interpretation of the ending that appears to run so completely counter to the spirit of the rest of the poem. (2) Fred Robinson, Margaret Goldsmith, and others have sought to stake out some middle ground, denying the power of the curse but still presenting us with a Beowulf whose fate remains in doubt, because as a pre-Christian he necessarily falls short of the standard of conduct that the poet must have subscribed to. (3) Others again have seen the poet as deliberately veiling or even shirking the issue of Beowulf’s destiny. (4) A fresh look at the passages that most obviously bear on the controversy may help to clarify it, if not to resolve it.

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About Gaby F

lectora, estudiosa de la historia antigua, especialmente la mitología germánica, indoeuropea. ".
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