Presentation on theme: "Beowulf Text and Context. Beowulf ► The Old English language was mostly spoken, but it did have highly developed poetry and prose; the most famous of."— Presentation transcript:
Beowulf Text and Context
Beowulf ► The Old English language was mostly spoken, but it did have highly developed poetry and prose; the most famous of course, being the epic ballad of: BEOWULF ► Beowulf: the earliest known recorded (written around 8th century) epic ballad. Since the poem takes place in Scandinavia, it provides some information about customs and traditions of the people of this time and place: ► lf.Readings/Prologue.html
Background ► Unknown date of composition (roughly 8 th -11 th Century CE) around 700 A.D. ► The story had been in circulation as an oral narrative for many years before it was written. ► The action of the poem takes place around 500 AD ► Poet is reviving the heroic language, style and values and pagan values of ancient Germanic oral poetry Unknown author; possibly one Christian author in Anglo-Saxon England
Only a single manuscript of the poem survived the Anglo-Saxon era. In the 1700’s it was nearly destroyed in a fireOnly a single manuscript of the poem survived the Anglo-Saxon era. In the 1700’s it was nearly destroyed in a fire It was not until 1936 when the Oxford scholar J.R.R Tolkien published a paper on the poem that it became popular.It was not until 1936 when the Oxford scholar J.R.R Tolkien published a paper on the poem that it became popular. ….Background
…Background ► Was bound together with 4 other works in Old English. The Passion of St. Christopher The Wonders of the East Alexander’s Letter to Aristotle Judith (a poem) ► All have the presence of monsters, so this suggests that was the common thread. Today, the manuscript is in the British Library in London
Beowulf’s Name ► Beowulf’s father– Edgetho In most cases, the son is named after the father ► Don ► Donald (son of Don) ► McDonald (son of son of Don) ► McDonaldson (son of son of son of Don) ► Proves Beowulf is own individual with own powers and abilities (and more important than his father) ► Beo– Bear Bears are known as Great Protectors in Norse mythology Strong ► Wulf– Wolf Wolves are also great protectors, but are also cunning and speedy
Geats and Danes The poem deals with ancient Germanic forebears, the Danes and the GeatsThe poem deals with ancient Germanic forebears, the Danes and the Geats Beowulf was a war leader of the Geats, a group of people in what is now southern Sweden Hrothgar was king of the Danes
The Beowulf Poet ► The poet is Christian ► The poem reflects established Christian tradition ► Allusions to the Old Testament ► Beowulf is a Redeemer who is sent by God to save man from sin ► The price of salvation is life itself ► Correspondences between Beowulf’s death and the death of Christ
Elements of an Epic 1. Epic hero– an character with a trait or characteristic that is valued by his society. (E.g.– Superman’s bravery or valor)(E.g.– Superman’s bravery or valor) 2. Quest– A journey through which the character or the reader learns something 3. Valorous Deeds– Doing something bravely. 4. Divine Intervention– The hand of God (or gods) help the hero, proving his value. 5. Great events– The hero has a hand in something important in the history or mythology of a culture.
2 Types of Epics 1. Folk Told out loud first (usually by scops) Unknown author Unknown dates (E.g.—Beowulf is a folk epic because we don’t know who wrote it) 2. Literary Known author (E.g.– Paradise Lost, by John Milton is a literary epic because we know who wrote it.)
3 Epic Conventions 1. Invoke a muse Muse– inspiration provided by the gods 2. Plot begins in medias res In medias red– “In the middle of” the action 3. Serious tone
Heroic Values in Beowulf ► Relationship between king and his warriors ► The king rewards his warriors with gifts ► If a kinsman is slain, obligation to kill the slayer or obtain payment (wergeld) in compensation
Warrior Code Comitatus: Germanic code of loyalty Thane: warrior – swears loyalty to the king for whom they fought and whom they protected Kings: generous, protected thanes Reputation: thanes were expected to be loyal, brave, courageous; kings were expected to be generous and hospitable Wergild: “man-payment”; a fee paid to the family of a slain man to atone for his murder and to prevent the family from seeking revenge.
Conflicting Christian Values and Heroic Values ► This tension is at the heart of the poem ► Pagan history and myth are made to point to a Christian moral ► Beowulf is poised between two value systems
The Character of Beowulf ► He fights for personal honor, but is committed to service to his own people and humanity. ► A superhuman who remains recognizable ► Contrast old and young Beowulf ► Beowulf as savior
Theme Topics ► Good vs. Evil ► Fate ► The Importance of Establishing Identity ► Tension between Heroic Code and Christianity ► Significance of artifacts ► The past
Important Elements of the Poem ► Elegaic tone ► Heroic poem ► Contrasts Christian and pagan Youth and old age Rise and fall of nations Joy and sorrow Fate and God’s will Violence Irony
Literary Devices Allusion: Biblical, Germanic oral tradition, Norse myth and legend, historical Anglo- Saxon kings (eg. King Offa of Mercia) Alliteration (eg. Scyld’s strong son) Epic poetry: a long narrative poem written in elevated style which celebrates the deeds of a legendary hero or god. Kenning: two-word metaphorical name for something (eg. whale-road=sea) Scop: Anglo-Saxon composers and storytellers (like minstrels or bards)
Sutton Hoo ► Near Woodbridge, Suffolk, England, is the site of two Anglo-Saxon cemeteries of the 6th century and early 7th century. One contained an undisturbed ship burial including a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artifacts of outstanding art-historical and archaeological significance, which are now held in the British Museum in London. Other sites before then had already produced significant finds, but many had been looted.Burial site discovered in 1939 ► Important links to Anglo-Saxon world and Beowulf ► Remains of a boat were discovered and large burial chamber containing numerous artifacts ► Artifacts suggest a distinctly Christian element intermingled with pagan ritual. ► Episodes in Beowulf now have tangible archaeological evidence to add credibility to the blend of customs in the text.
Sutton Hoo Artifacts
Suggested Further Reading ► Beowulf, A Verse Translatioin. Trans. Seamus Heaney. Ed. Daniel Donaghue. Norton Critical Edition ► html ► ► resources/#suttonhoo ► ► treaure-hoard-found-in-staffordshire- field/AOyZvCEUOPurd3cSGJ05ZQ