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Examples of Personification in Beowulf

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  • 0:04 Personification Definition
  • 0:40 Personification of Fate
  • 1:22 Personification of the Skies
  • 2:07 Personification of the Day
  • 2:45 Personification of the Grief
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

In this lesson, we will look at a few important examples of personification in Beowulf and tackle their meanings. Once you understand these different examples and meanings, you'll be able to test your knowledge with a quiz!

Personification Definition

Personification is when non-humans are given human characteristics. If you've ever heard someone say that the wind was howling, this is personification, because the wind cannot literally howl. Since a mouth and vocal chords are required for howling, we know that it isn't literal. Personification adds emotion and interest to a story.

The classic epic poem Beowulf contains many examples of personification. Personification can be a difficult concept. Add to that the complicated language of Beowulf, and you might have a real challenge on your hands.

Personification of Fate

Throughout Beowulf, the idea of fate is mentioned many times. At one point, we read the following lines: ''My household-guard / Are on the wane, fate sweeps them away / Into Grendel's clutches.'' In this sentence, fate is described as sweeping away the speaker's guard. Since fate is an idea or a belief, it can't actually perform actions like sweeping. Personifying fate relieves the guard of responsibility for losing his life, and it also detracts from Grendel's power. By placing the emphasis and responsibility on fate, this example of personification suggests that the guards didn't die because Grendel is powerful; they died because fate alone decided to take him

Personification of the Skies

Another example of personification comes when the speaker describes the woods where the monster lives. We're told in the following passage: ''That is no good place. / When the wind blows up and stormy weather / Makes clouds scud and the skies weep.'' This is an example of personification because the sentence describe the skies as being able weep. Since the sky obviously isn't alive and can't cry, the speaker is giving the sky human characteristics. One of the results of this personification is that it conveys a sense of overwhelming sadness and danger. Since the sky is so large, mysterious, and powerful, this example of personification adds drama and emotion by suggesting that there is something that can make the sky shed tears.

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