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Introduction to Beowulf Story isn’t about the English—it’s about the Danes and the Geats. So what’s it doing in England? Romans controlled England (up.

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Presentation on theme: "Introduction to Beowulf Story isn’t about the English—it’s about the Danes and the Geats. So what’s it doing in England? Romans controlled England (up."— Presentation transcript:

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2 Introduction to Beowulf Story isn’t about the English—it’s about the Danes and the Geats. So what’s it doing in England? Romans controlled England (up to Hadrian’s Wall) until the 5 th century Waves of post-Roman invasions by Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, and Irish Native Britons couldn’t hold them off

3 Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms Map from C. Warren Hollister, The Making of England, p. 64

4 I. Historical background A.D. -- Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invade (Beowulf set) 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 A.D. -- Christian poet composed the poem

5 The Danelaw Viking raids in late 8 th century along East coast of England, Ireland, northern France In 850, Danish Vikings began to settle in Kent In 865, a large Danish army invaded and took control of nearly all of England except Wessex In 870, Danes attacked Wessex

6 The Danelaw 871: Alfred the Great becomes king of Wessex Warrior, diplomat, administrator, scholar, Christian; Greatest Anglo- Saxon king 872: Alfred had to bribe the Danes to stop the fighting Built a navy of 60-oared ships, bigger and faster than the Danes’ ships

7 The Danelaw After almost losing his kingdom in 872, Alfred’s military reforms allowed him to begin retaking land By 886, Alfred had retaken London and made a treaty with the Danes establishing their area of authority in England—the Danelaw By Alfred’s death in 899, the Danish threat was over, and subsequent kings reconquered the Danelaw

8 Sutton Hoo Ship burial of a 7 th -century Anglo- Saxon king, possibly Raedwald (d. 624/625) Found in 1939 at Sutton Hoo in eastern England, formerly the Danelaw Ship was nearly 80 feet long, laden with treasures and everyday equipment (even if it is everyday equipment made of gold) Window into the early Anglo-Saxon world

9 Sutton Hoo Photos from British Museum

10 Sutton Hoo

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12 Introduction to Beowulf Oral vs. written text Many ancient works were memorized and recited—and were not written down until centuries later (Odyssey, Iliad, Beowulf) Only surviving Beowulf manuscript dates from late 10 th century Probably composed mid-8 th century

13 Introduction to Beowulf The scop: Anglo-Saxon equivalent of a singing poet Oral techniques: alliteration, repetition, variation, kennings, half- lines, metonymy (one thing substituted for another), synecdoche (part for the whole)

14 Beowulf Manuscript (Note the burn marks on the top and sides—the ms. was severely damaged in a fire)

15 Poetics Hwaet! Wē Gār-Denain geārdagum þēodcyningaþrym gefrūnon, hū ðā æþelingasellen fremedon. Oft Scyld Scēfingsceaþena þrēatum monegum mægþummeodosetla oftēah, egsode eorlassyððan ærest wearð fēasceaft funden.Hē þæs frōfre gebād, wēox under wolcnum,weorðmundum þāh oð þæt him æghwylcþāra ymbsittendra ofer hronrādehyran scolde, gomban gyldan.Þæt wæs gōd cyning!

16 Kennings A metaphorical expression used in place of a noun Sea = “whale-road” or “swan’s way” Joints, ligaments = “bone-locks” Sun = “sky-candle” Icicles = “water-ropes”

17 Metonymy and Synecdoche Metonymy: Name of one thing is substituted for the name of something else that most people would associate with the first thing –“Iron” for “Sword” –“Crown” for “king” or “monarchy” Synecdoche: Substitute a part for the whole –“keel” for “ship” –“All hands on deck” –“Heads of cattle”

18 Anglo-Saxon Society Tribal society with kinship bonds and a heroic code of behavior –bravery –loyalty to one's lord, one's warband (comitatus), and one's kin –willingness to avenge one's warband or lord at all costs – death preferable to exile. –generosity of lord to thanes and of hero to warband and lord--gift-giving –heroism (i.e., great deeds) brings honor, eternal fame, and political power

19 Anglo-Saxon values Loyalty –Fighting for one’s king –Avenging one’s kinsmen –Keeping one’s word Generosity -- gifts symbolize bonds Brotherly love -- not romantic love Heroism –Physical strength –Skill and resourcefulness in battle –Courage Public reputation, not private conscience

20 What about the women? Women make peace, bearing children who create blood ties Women pass the cup at the mead-hall, cementing social bonds Women lament loss, don’t avenge

21 Religion in Anglo Saxon Times Mix of pagan and Christian values-- often in conflict. –Pagan (secular (non-religious) lineage vs. Christian lineage; –Eternal earthly fame through deeds vs afterlife in hell or heaven; –honor & gift-giving vs. sin of pride (hubris); –revenge vs pacifist view (forgiveness); – Wyrd (Anglo-Saxon "Fate") vs God's will, etc.

22 Epic hero traits Is significant and glorified Is on a quest Has superior or superhuman strength, intelligence, and/or courage Is ethical. Risks death for glory or for the greater good of society Is a strong and responsible leader Performs brave deeds Reflects ideals of a particular society


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