"The Wife's Lament" Analytical Essay by a359

"The Wife's Lament"
An outline of past and current criticism of the Old English poem "The Wife's Lament," as well as speculation into the meaning of the poem.
# 27119 | 5,280 words | 11 sources | MLA | 2003 | US
Published on May 25, 2003 in Literature (English) , Literature (Poetry) , English (Analysis)

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"The Wife's Lament" is elegy found in the Exeter Book, an Anglo-Saxon manuscript dating back to approximately 1050. The paper shows that "The Wife's Lament" has been considered a poem from a woman's point of view (although written by a male poet), lamenting the loss of her husband and her exile. The paper shows that the poem was only thought to be from a female perspective, however, for the past hundred or so years. Prior to that, it was thought to be a warrior's lament. Some criticism still persists that the speaker is male, however, the general consensus does not concur. This paper looks at the criticism over the years and sorts out the various implications of the poem.

From the Paper:

"Doane focuses on the occurrence of the word giedd in the first line of the poem. This word has many connotations, among them, song, riddle, wise passage, and sad passage. His conclusion is that in most cases other than "The Wife's Lament" it is used to mean a wise speech, therefore, it is used here as an announcement of a "significant, coherent, wise utterance, neither a mere private lament nor an idle lyrical outburst." He thinks it refers to the last part of the poem in particular, and therefore makes the entire poem a formal curse, rather than just the last section as many believe (80). The misery she describes in the middle passage is then to be considered an example of what she wants transferred to the recipient of the curse. He believes that "The Wife's Lament" may be a poem written at a time when pagan rites were at least still remembered and feared, if not regularly practiced."

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