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The Origins of BeowulfFrom Vergil to Wiglaf$
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Richard North

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199206612

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199206612.001.0001

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Introduction: Beowulf and Wiglaf

Introduction: Beowulf and Wiglaf

(p.1) 1 Introduction: Beowulf and Wiglaf
The Origins of Beowulf

Richard North (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This introductory chapter opens with the importance of Wiglaf, who shares the limelight with Beowulf for the last fifth of the poem (580 lines), with this set alongside the near contiguous reigns of Beornwulf and Wiglaf in Mercian history. Manuscript, dialect, and metre are discussed as preliminaries, with the conclusion that the poet knew Vergil in 9th-century Mercia. The case is then made, using Vergil's place in the English Renaissance, for treating his Aeneid as a major influence on Beowulf. The poem's heroic sources and Norse analogues are introduced, whereupon the Frisians are considered as the most likely purveyors of Beowulf's Scylding tales. The Vikings, particularly Skaldic poets, are considered then dismissed, as Beowulf's sources for these. With the Liber historiae Francorum and Æthelwulf's genealogical use of Scyld Scefing as outer markers, the poem's period of composition is initially set at c. 727 x c. 855.

Keywords:   Aeneid, Norse analogues, dialect, Frisians, manuscript, metre, Vergil, Vikings, Wiglaf

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