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The Interlacing Structure of Beowulf

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Sarah Wynn

on 20 September 2013

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Transcript of The Interlacing Structure of Beowulf

The Interlacing Structure of Beowulf
John Leyerle dedicated his essay to Norman Garmonsway.
Garmonsway passed away suddenly on Feb. 28, 1996.
This paper was influenced by Garmonsway teachings on “the relationship between early art and poetry,” (John Leyerle, page 130).
“He [Garmonsway] had the virtues of Chaucer’s Clerk of Oxford mixed with good humour,” (130).

Dedication to:

“This lecture will attempt to show that the structure of Beowulf is a poetic analogue of the interlace designs common in the Anglo-Saxon art of the seventh and eighth centuries,”(131).
The purpose is to compare Beowulf to Anglo-Saxon art.


“Interlacing designs go back to prehistoric Mesopotamia; in one form or another they are the characteristic of the art of all races,”(131).
Bands plaited together to form a braid or rope pattern, but interlace occurs when bands turn against themselves to form knots or breaks in the pattern in the “linear flow,”(131).
The south face of Bewcastle Cross from Cumberland.

Folio 94 of the Lindisfarne Gospels

Interlacing designs

Many of the designs have zoomorphic characteristics, mainly from wolves or eagles.
As zoomorphs developed, they became similar in shapes that resembles dragons.
These may have “reinforced belief in the existence of dragons” in early Anglo-Saxon.
Many interlacing designs from the early Anglo-Saxon period can be found in manuscripts, bone cravings, ivory and stone, and metal for jewelry and weapons.

Interlacing Designs

“The pervasive importance of interlace designs in early Anglo-Saxon art establishes the historical possibility that a parallel may be found in the poetry of the same culture…There is amole evidence that the interlace design has literary parallels in both style and structure,”(138)
Stylistic interlace is a characterisc of Aldhelm and Alcuin.
They weave direct statements and classical tags together to make veral braids in which allusive literary references from past across and recross with the present subject. Poets do this subconscious.

Why is interlacing designs important?

In Beowulf, as the scop praise Beowulf’s killing of Grendel (present) and the tales of Sigemund and Heremod (past).
Beowulf often have large time lapse, “the significance of the connections is left for the audience to work out for themselves,”(146).
There are 2 linear narrative in Beowulf’s life; one with Grendel and the other with the dragon, however the are interrupted by other perceptions.
The interlacing of Beowulf also points out a few themes.
Women are the bonds of kinship.
Treasure binds kinship, but also cause strife.

Where is interlacing in beowulf

Leyerle use an analogy between art and poetry.
He also uses logos
Historical allusions
Extended metaphors

Rhetoric Devices

Leyerle use an analogy between art and poetry.
He also uses logos
Historical allusions
Extended metaphors

Rhetoric Devices

The essay focus on the Anglo-Saxon period.


There is parallelism between art and Beowulf.
Leyerle also uses many examples to support his argument.

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