Digressions of Beowulf
There are numerous digressions in Beowulf that are confusing to first-time readers of the poem. The digressions are not accidental, but intentional to serve as indirect commentary for the main plot. Beowulf was written by a single Christian poet. To the modern reader, one must have a basic understanding on the history of Scandinavian dynasties. The burning of Hrothgar’s hall and the taking of the Danish throne by his nephew are events which lay outside the actual story, but the Anglo-Saxon audience did not forget the ironic and menacing tones of the occasion at the celebration of Grendel’s defeat. Beowulf has an environment of doom, which Beowulf barely is the victor at the fight with Grendel’s mother. This effect is related to the later part of the poem with the fatal dragon fight. It is almost as if Grendel and his mother are the wickedness that will take over the Danes and the Dragon is the tragedy for the Geats. An additional effect is “the historical elements” in Beowulf which gives the poem more depth. Hrothgar and the kings are “historical” characters and the site of the palace is real. Beowulf, Grendel, and the Dragon belong to the “mythical elements” though it did seem to be important to the audience. The secondary stories of the fights between and Dances and the Heathobards, and the Geats to the Swedes and Franks, lies in the ironic effect which the poem pulls out so well. Typically it is claimed that the poet utilizes the “historical” stories to bring home the temporal nature of Beowulf’s heroic deeds. Irony is full with the fact that even though Beowulf goes to Herot and slays the Dragon, the Geats and the Dances are still to be destroyed by the consequences of their own actions.