BEOWULF - Welcome to English

BEOWULF - Welcome to English

One of the most important remains of Anglo-Saxon literature is the epic poem Beowulf. Its age is unknown; but it comes from a very distant and hoar antiquity . . . It is like a piece I. Historical background

400-600 A.D. -- Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invade (Beowulf time setting) 410 A.D. Rome renounces control of Britain 521 A.D. Hygelac invades the Netherlands 597 A.D. St. Augustine 625 A.D. Sutton Hoo 700-950 A.D. -- Christian monk composed the poem

I. Historical background 400-600 A.D. -- Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invade (Beowulf is set here) 410 A.D. Rome renounces control of Britain 521 A.D. Hygelac invades the Netherlands 597 A.D. St. Augustine 625 A.D. Sutton Hoo 700-950 A.D. -- Christian poet composed the poem I. Historical background

400-600 A.D. -- Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invade (Beowulf is set here) 410 A.D. Rome renounces control of Britain 521 A.D. Hygelac invades the Netherlands 597 A.D. St. Augustine 625 A.D. Sutton Hoo 700-950 A.D. -- Christian poet composed the poem English Literature? Even though Beowulf is the

oldest surviving English epic, it is not set in England and its characters are not English. In the 400s, Germanic peoples known as Anglo Saxons invaded the territory that would become known as England They brought the story of Beowulf with them. The text of Beowulf shows both Norse pagan belief and Christianity, often in the same line.

English Literature? Pagan Concepts elaborate Germanic seaburials, grand feasts in the mead-halls, belief in fate, material rewards. Christian Concepts reference to Cain (used in connection to Grendel), reference to the Flood, Gods will be done Wyrd Fate or acceptance of the inevitable

Wyrd Fate or acceptance of the inevitable Comitatus Loyalty or responsibility to the group/community . Wyrd Fate or acceptance of the inevitable Comitatus Loyalty or responsibility to the group/community Wergild Man-gold. A murderer would be required to pay money to the

family, or face retribution. Beowulf: Background Information The oldest surviving piece of Anglo-Saxon literature Author unknown Existed through oral tradition for an estimated 300 years passed on from one scop (shop) to another Written in what is now called Old English

Only one complete original manuscript remains II. The manuscript Obtained by Sir Robert Cotton Bound in Cotton Vitellius. Damaged in fire in 1731 Currently at British Museum What did it sound like?

IV. Anglo-Saxon values Loyalty Fighting for ones king Avenging ones kinsmen Keeping ones word Generosity -- gifts symbolize bonds Brotherly love -- not romantic love IV. Anglo-Saxon values Heroism Physical strength Skill and resourcefulness

in battle Courage Public reputation, not private conscience Literary Devices Anglo-Saxon scops relied on certain poetic devices to aid their memory and give their poems structure and impact. Three of these devices can be found in Beowulf: Alliteration

Kennings Caesura Alliteration Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words that are close together in a poem. Hrothgars men lived happy in his hall. miserable, mighty men tormented Kenning Kennings are special kinds of metaphors that use compound words, prepositional phrases, or possessives to name a person, place, thing, or event indirectly.

Compound Words "hell-forged" "banquet-rich "ring-giver" "mead-cup" "she-wolf" Prepositional Phrases Possessives "Shelter of warriors" "ocean's/Furrows" "shapes of darkness"

"God's bright beacon" "shepherd of evil" "Heaven's high "tormentor of their arch" days" "Geats'/Brave "journey into prince" darkness" "hell's captive" You can Create modern-day kennings for things you see

around you. giver of words word-wand ? ? ? ? Caesura

An obvious pause in a line of poetry. In Old English poetry, it usually comes near the middle of a line, with two stressed syllables before and two after, often allowing little or no runon of meaning from the first half line to the second. A prince of the Geats / had killed Grendel. Beowulf : The Epic Poem Beowulf is an early Anglo-Saxon epic.

An epic is a long narrative poem that recounts, in formal language, the exploits of a larger-than-life hero. The epic hero is usually a man of high social status and is often important in the history of his people. Beowulf : The Epic Poem Epic plots usually involve: Supernatural events Long time periods

Life and death struggles In epics, the hero always represents good and the forces that threaten people represent evil. To overcome the peoples enemies, the hero requires great physical strength. Epic Heroes Characteristics of an Epic Hero: Is significant and glorified Is on a quest

Has supernatural strength, intelligence, and courage Is Ethical Risks death for the good of society Performs brave deeds Is a strong and responsible leader Reflects the ideas and values of his society

Epics Epics were originally sang or recited orally with musical accompaniment. At that time, very few people could read. Audiences were enthralled by monsters, perilous journeys, and fierce battles. The Anglo-Saxons, in their primitive and harsh environment, demanded of their heroes . . .

courage, physical strength loyalty to a tribal king wisdom in guiding others supreme self-confidence The heroes in Beowulf meet these qualifications.

Other Epics Gilgamesh (Babylonian, unknown) The Odyssey (Greek, Homer) The Iliad (Greek, Homer) The Aeneid (Roman, Virgil) Who was Beowulf? Beowulf was a brave warrior who vanquished evil monsters. He embodies courage, loyalty, and generosity. He traveled to Denmark

from his home in Geatland (now southern Sweden) to slay Grendel. Grendel An enormous ogre or demon-like creature A descendent of the biblical Cain Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel.

Cain killed Abel out of jealousy. Despises mankinds joy Menaces Hrothgar and the Danes for twelve years before facing Hrothgar The aging king of the Danes Welcomes Beowulfs assistance in facing Grendel

Built Herot (his giant mead-hall) to symbolize the kingdoms success, civilization, and joy Herot Hrothgars meadhall Social, governmental, and emotional center of the village

Grendel delights in raiding and capturing it nightly Mead honey-based wine Grendels Mother Not as powerful as her son, but still a formidable foe Lives with her son Grendel in a cave beneath a swampy

lake (or mere) In her cave is a magical, giant sword Synopsis For twelve years, Grendel has raided Herot nightly, killing King Hrothgars Danish warriors. Beowulf, who has heard of Grendels evil deeds, decides to come to the aid of the Danes. Hrothgar had once sheltered Beowulfs father during a deadly feud,

and Beowulf wants to return the favor. Beowulf also hopes to enhance his own reputation and gain treasure for his king, Higlac. Beowulf brings with him fourteen of his finest men. Synopsis On the first night of the visit, Hrothgar holds a feast in Beowulfs honor. Beowulf is insulted by a drunken Dane named Unferth. Unferth tells the crowd that Beowulf

was once beaten in a swimming contest by an ordinary man named Breca, thus he would certainly be no match for Grendel. Beowulf responds with dignity noting that the two swimmers were separated by a storm, and on the fifth night of the contest Beowulf slew nine sea monsters before finally returning home Unferth had been put in his place! The Danes retire to safe sleeping quarters; Beowulf and his Geats bed down in Herot.

Synopsis Angered by the joy of the men in the mead-hall, Grendel bursts in and kills one of the Geats. With the strength of 30 men in his hand grip, Beowulf seizes the ogres claw and rips it from its shoulder socket. The mortally wounded beast flees to his mere pool. The claw trophy hangs

high under the roof of Herot. Synopsis The Danes celebrate the next day with a huge feast. But Grendels mother is bent on revenge. That night she climbs into Herot to retrieve her sons claw, and kills one of the Danes. Beowulf was sleeping elsewhere. The next morning Hrothgar, Beowulf, and several Danes and Geats follow

the mothers tracks into a dark, formidable swamp. Beowulf dives into the mere to seek Grendels mother. He carries with him a sword named Hrunting, a gift from the chastised Unferth. Synopsis First, Beowulf battles with strange creatures. Grendels mother then attacks and hauls the Geat warrior to her dimly lit cave. Beowulfs gift sword Hrunting

fails to penetrate the ogres hide. Grendels mother tries to cut Beowulf with a knife, but his mail (armor) protects him. Beowulf spots a giant magical sword and uses it to kill her. Synopsis An unexplainable light illuminates the cavern and reveals Grendels corpse and a great deal of treasure. Beowulf decapitates the corpse. The magic sword melts to its hilt (handle).

Beowulf returns the surface carrying Grendels head, but leaves the treasure. Synopsis After much celebration and gifts from Hrothgar, Beowulf and his men return home. Later, Beowulfs king Higlac is killed in battle. Higlacs son is also killed in a feud. Beowulf is named King of Geatland and rules for 50 years. In his declining years, he must face one more demon. The End of Beowulf

A fiery dragon has become enraged when a fugitive stole a valuable cup from the dragons treasure-trove. The dragon terrorizes the countryside at night. Beowulf insists on taking the dragon alone, but his sword is no match for the monster. All of Beowulfs men flee to the woods. Only one of them, Wiglaf, goes to Beowulfs assistance. Beowulf is mortally wounded. Dying, he leaves his kingdom to Wiglaf. His body is cremated in a funeral pyre

and buried high on a sea-side cliff where passing sailors can see. The dragons treasure is buried with him. Turn to page 24

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