[lit-ideas] Beowulf: The Implicature of Masculinity

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2007 11:34:16 EST

As some of you may know, I saw _Beowulf_ -- 'the movie -- yesterday. Good  
performance by Ray Winstone as the eponym hero. Also of Angelina Joel as the  
personification of Evil, and Sir Anthony Hopkins as the King. 
I would like to focus in this note in a couple of 'implicatures' of  
'masculinity' in Beowulf:
     KING:  Hail, Beowulf! 
     BEOWULF: Hail, King. I've come to Kill the  Monster.
     KING (to Subjects): Beowulf's father is a good  friend of mine. 
                 How is your father, Beowulf?
     BEOWULF: -- Dead -- but thanks for asking,  anyway.
I found that an 'explicature' or 'disimplicature' even -- but you have to  
see the 'film' for the expression in Beowulf's face -- it's animation.
     Beowulf has returned from the cave where the  Monster's Mother (Angelina 
Jolie) lives. Instead of killing her, he _converses_  with her, and gets to 
_know_ her. On his return:
    KING: So -- Beowulf, Hast thou killed the Monster's  Mother?
    BEOWULF (meditative): Would I have returned alive had I  not?

Beowulf is dancing in the meadhouse, completely naked. A  lady companion to 
the Queen comments:
    LADY: He killed the Monster alright.
    THE QUEEN: Indeed he did.
    LADY: Would he attack me, too, and embrace as he did to  the Monster, 
with his strong legs, the three of them.
    This is more of a figurative expression, 'a figure of  speech' (skhema 
lexeos) where _one_ leg must be read as "membrum virilis".
     BEOWULF (to Queen) Treat me as MAN, not a  hero.
              Implicature: "Heroes" are _not_ male?

BEOWULF (Finn the  Frisian):
             I  have no heirs, so will make thee mine.
             Implicature: He has not performed the social requisite (in 
standard Christian  mythology) for one to become a man, 'to procreate'. But 
this is 
Now going back to the convoluted 'implicatura' (as used by Sidonius, in the  
Loeb), 'entanglement'.
    KING: So -- Beowulf, Hast thou killed the Monster's  Mother?  
BEOWULF (meditative): Would I have returned alive had I  not?

You note the thing may be seen as a 'rhetorical question', +> (i.e.  
implicating) "Yes".
However, the reader or audience or viewer of Beowulf -- in a sort of  
'tragical irony' as the Greeks would elaborate rather more, but I still would  
to have the original "Anglo-Saxon" for that third-type conditional --  _knows_ 
that Beowulf has merely _made love_ to the Monster's mother, rather than  
'kill' her.
So I suppose, in a scheme as provided by argumentation theory we can  imagine 
a scenario where the King becomes McEvoy:
      McEvoy: Have you killed her?
      Beowulf: Would I be here if I had not?
      McEvoy: That's not what I asked. Answer  'yes' or 'no'.
But Beowulf _failed_ to answer with a yes or no. So it's up to us to  
formulate -- in symbols, predicate logic, with the use of the '-->' sign for  
'if' operator, what he may have meant. Once we get to the logical form of  the 
statement (the explicature) we may proceed to analyse its implicatures. 
 I propose the predicate:
R:   for 'return alive'
This would be monadic (one-place) predicate, so that Rx means "x returns  
Then we need a dyadic predicate (although a monadic version would do), for  
K:   'kill'
So that K(x, y) reads "x kills y".
Now we need to provide referential axioms for x (= Beowulf) and y (=the  
Monster's Mother), which become, respectively 'b' and 'm'. 
We also need a 'chronological' framework as this would be 'tense logic' in  
the sense of A. N. Prior. So we have 't1 < t2' to mean 'earlier' and 't2 >  t2' 
to mean "later"
So, the King's question would be formulated as followed by Beowulf's  reply:
          (K)      [?] K(b, m)
          (B)   [?] ~K(b, m) (t1 < t2) --> Rx (t2 > t1)
We are wanting to construe (B) as a negative answer to (K). Why? How can we  
do that in symbols?
-- This is _not_ an open book question.

J. L. 
    Buenos Aires, Argentina.
               Professor of Logic and Conversation. 
J. L.  Speranza, Esq. 
St. Michael Hall,
Calle 58, No. 611,
La Plata B1900  BPY
Provincia de Buenos Aires,  Argentina.

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