The four funerals in Beowulf

By Gale Owen-Crocker

The four funerals in Beowulf

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8121-7
  • Pages: 272
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £16.99
  • Published Date: October 2009
  • BIC Category: Medieval Literature, Literature, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Literature: history & criticism, Literary studies: poetry & poets, Ireland, POETRY / General, LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Literature & literary studies / Poetry by individual poets, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: poetry & poets


It is well known that the old English poem Beowulf begins and ends with funerals and includes the third as a digression part way through. Now, for the first time, a fourth funeral (hitherto disguised as poetic imagery) is identified from archaeological evidence. A detailed analysis of the four funerals establishes their thematic and structural importance, revealing them as pillars around which the poem is built. The poet is revealed as a literate antiquarian of considerable structural skill; one who explores feminist issues, plays with numbers and enjoys a pun; who establishes an ideal then probes its darker side.

The author's unique knowledge of Anglo-Saxon culture provides constant surprises and enlightenment. This book will be invaluable to all students of the poem for its fresh and detailed reading, its identification of a coherent structure and its establishment of the integrity of the surviving texts.


1. Introduction
Part I - the Four Funerals
2. The first funeral: Scyld Scefing's Ship of Death
3. The second funeral: the cremation of Hildeburg's kin
4. The third funeral: the Last Survivor's Lament
5. The fourth funeral: Beowulf's complex obsequies
6. Classicising the past
Part II - The Funerals and the Structure of the Poem
7. Rings and fitts
8. The funerals and elliptical structures I: the inner funerals as frames
9. The funerals and elliptical structures II: the outer structures
10. The funerals and elliptical structures III: the funerals as centres
11. Three movements and a coda: Beowulf's femininst middle


Gale R. Owen-Crocker is Professor of Anglo-Saxon Culture at the University of Manchester

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