This chapter focuses on how the scribes approached the reproduction of the Beowulf text. The scribes were engaged in a mechanical task of which success was continuously predicated on one critical operation: the identification of the lexeme present in a sequence of graphemes in the exemplar. The explanatory superiority of this lexemic theory over its competitors is most clearly demonstrated by its ability to account for a wide array of textual phenomena in the four codices that preserve the majority of the extant poetic corpus. However, the chapter also introduces some competing theories of scribal behavior, which differ from the lexemic theory principally by maintaining the conviction that poets and scribes shared the same interests, concerns, and abilities. Finally, the chapter touches upon other points of scholarship relating to scribal behavior.
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