Anglo-Saxon and Beowulf Background

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Anglo-Saxon and Beowulf Background. Background Information. 30,000 lines of Anglo-Saxon poetry survive today 3, 182 (10%) of the lines are from Beowulf Setting - Denmark and Sweden Author - Unknown, probably a monk Composed in the 7th or 8th century Oldest surviving English poem. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Text of Anglo-Saxon and Beowulf Background

  • Anglo-SaxonandBeowulfBackground

  • Background Information30,000 lines of Anglo-Saxon poetry survive today3, 182 (10%) of the lines are from BeowulfSetting - Denmark and SwedenAuthor - Unknown, probably a monkComposed in the 7th or 8th centuryOldest surviving English poem

  • Anglo-Saxon CultureBelief in fate (Wyrd)Accumulated treasures amount to successFame and fortune zealously sought afterLoyalty to ones leader crucialImportance of pagan, Germanic, and Christian ideals to people whose lives were often hard and uncertain

  • Anglo-Saxon CultureFierce, hardy life of warrior and seamenStrength, courage, leadership abilities appreciated Boisterous yet elaborately ritualized customs of the mead-hallExpected the hero to boast

  • Anglo-Saxon Ideals Codes of ConductGood defeats evilWergild--restitution for murder or expect revenge from victims relativesBoasts must be backed with actions.Fate is in controlFair fights are the only honorable fights

  • Epic PoemLong narrative poem that recounts the adventures of a hero.Elevated languageDoes not sermonizeInvokes a museBegins in media resMysterious origin, super powers, vulnerability, rite of passage

  • The Epic HeroActions consist of responses to catastrophic situations in which the supernatural often intervenes.Code of conduct forces him to challenge any threat to societyDestiny discovered through a series of episodes punctuated by violent incidents interspersed with idyllic descriptions.

  • Elements of Anglo-Saxon PoetryChant-like effect of the four-beat lineAlliteration (Then the grim man in green gathers his strength)Caesura-pause or break in a line of poetry(Oft to the wanderer weary of exile)Kenning-metaphorical phrase used instead of a name (battle-blade and ring-giver)Epithet-description name to characterize something (keen-edge sword)Hyperbole-exaggeration

  • Title of Epic PoemAnglo-Saxon word Beo means bright or nobleAnglo-Saxon word wulf means wolfBeowulf means bright or noble wolfOther sources say Beo means bear

  • How we date BeowulfSome Important Dates:521 A.D. death of Hygelac, who is mentioned in the poem680 A.D. appearance of alliterative verse835 A.D. the Danish started raiding other areas; after this, few poets would consider them heroesSO: This version was likely composed between 680 and 835, though it may be set earlier

  • The Poetry in Beowulf1. Alliterative verseRepetition of initial sounds of words (occurs in every line)b. Generally, four feet/beats per linec. A caesura, or pause, between beats two and fourd. No rhyme

  • The Poetry in Beowulf2. Kenningsa. Compound metaphor (usually two words)b. Most were probably used over and overFor instance: hronade literally means whale-road, but can be translated as sea

  • More KenningsOther kennings from Beowulf:

    bone-house = body

    gold-friend of men = generous princering-giver = lordflashing light = sword

  • Setting: Beowulfs time and placeEurope todayInsert: Time of Beowulf

  • Some terms youll want to knowscopA bard or story-teller.The scop was responsible for praising deeds of past heroes, for recording history, and for providing entertainment

  • thaneA warriormead-hallThe large hall where the lord and his warriors slept, ate, held ceremonies, etc.Terms: Thane and Mead-Hall

  • wyrdFate. This idea crops up a lot in the poem, while at the same time there are Christian references to Gods will.Term: Wyrd

  • Main Characters

  • BeowulfEpic heroGeat (from southern Sweden)Nephew of Higlac (King at storys start)Sails to Denmark to help Hrothgar

  • HrothgarDanish kingBuilds Herot (banquet hall) for menTormented by Grendel for 12 yearsLoses many men to GrendelJoyless before Beowulfs arrival

  • GrendelReferred to as demon and fiendHaunts the moors (swampy land)Descendant of CainFeasts on 30 men the night of 1st attack

  • Grendels MotherReferred to as she-wolfLives under a lakeChallenges Hrothgar when she kills one of his best men

  • Fire DragonLives in Beowulfs kingdomWakes up when thief steals cupGuards countless treasures

  • Works CitedIntro to Beowulf

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