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A Study on Geogoð in Old English Poetry: Beowulf 535-538

A Study on Geogoð in Old English Poetry: Beowulf 535-538

Medieval English Studies, vol. 10 (2002) No. 2)

Lee, Dongill

Abstract

This paper deals with the meaning of geogoð and its application in Beowulf with reference to the flyting scene between Beowulf and Unferth. To a large extent, understanding the nature of Beowulf’s reply to Unferth in 530-606 depends on the correct interpretation of geogoð. Many critics agree that Beowulf is quick to concede in his admission that Breca and he were mere foolish boys (at the time of the swimming-contest). I will demonstrate that the generally accepted meaning ‘immaturity’ or ‘foolhardiness’ given to geogoð is not applicable in Beowulf’s reply to Unferth’s verbal attack against Beowulf’s participation in the swimming-contest. Beowulf’s reference to geogoð is best interpreted, not as a sign of immaturity or rashness but as a confirmation of his early heroic disposition.

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