Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epic poem Beowulf, one of the masterpieces of Anglo-Saxon literature. Composed in the early Middle Ages by an anonymous poet, the work tells the story of a Scandinavian hero whose feats include battles with the fearsome monster Grendel and a fire-breathing dragon. It survives in a single manuscript dating from around 1000 AD, and was almost completely unknown until its rediscovery in the nineteenth century. Since then it has been translated into modern English by writers including William Morris, JRR Tolkien and Seamus Heaney, and inspired poems, novels and films.


Laura Ashe
Associate Professor in English at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Worcester College

Clare Lees
Professor of Medieval English Literature and History of the Language at King's College London

Andy Orchard
Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Release date:

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 5 Mar 2015 21:30

Related topics


Laura Ashe at the University of Oxford

Clare Lees at King's College London

Andy Orchard at the University of Oxford

British Library - Digitised Manuscripts

Beowulf - Wikipedia



Peter S. Baker (ed.), The Beowulf Reader (Routledge, 2000)

R. E. Bjork and J. D. Niles, A Beowulf Handbook (Liverpool University Press, 1997)

R. E. Bjork, R. D. Fulk and J. D. Niles (eds.), Klaeber’s Beowulf (University of Toronto Press, 2008)

R. D. Fulk (ed.), The Beowulf Manuscript (Harvard University Press, 2010)

R. D. Fulk, Interpretations of Beowulf: A Critical Anthology (Indiana University Press, 1991)

Malcolm Godden and Michael Lapidge (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Seamus Heaney (trans.), Beowulf (Faber & Faber, 2000)

E. B. Irving, Rereading Beowulf (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992)

Clare A. Lees (ed.), Medieval Masculinities: Regarding Men in the Middle Ages (University of Minnesota Press, 1994)

Clare A. Lees (ed.), The Cambridge History of Early Medieval English Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

R. M. Liuzza, (trans), Beowulf: Facing Page Translation (Broadview Press, 2012)

Edwin Morgan, Beowulf (first published 1952; Carcanet, 2002)

J. D. Niles, Beowulf and Lejre (Arizona Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2007)

Andy Orchard, A Critical Companion to Beowulf (Boydell and Brewer, 2003)

Andy Orchard, Pride and Prodigies: Studies in the Monsters of the Beowulf Manuscript (University of Toronto Press, 2003)

J. R. R. Tolkien and C. Tolkien, Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary (Houghton Mifflin, 2014)



Role Contributor
PresenterMelvyn Bragg
Interviewed GuestLaura Ashe
Interviewed GuestClare Lees
Interviewed GuestAndy Orchard
ProducerThomas Morris

Featured in...

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

Hildegard of Bingen

If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start.

The Matter of the North


Melvyn Bragg explores the pivotal role of England's north in shaping modern Britain.

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

Arts and Ideas podcast

Arts and Ideas podcast

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.