Presentation on theme: "BEOWULF An Introduction to the Anglo Saxon Epic. Overview Set down in manuscript form between the middle of the 7 th and the end of the 10 th century."— Presentation transcript:
BEOWULF An Introduction to the Anglo Saxon Epic
Overview Set down in manuscript form between the middle of the 7 th and the end of the 10 th century A.D. A Heroic narrative spanning over 3,000 lines, the poem would have been originally conveyed orally, and later set down into written form. Composed in Old English (Anglo Saxon); one of the seminal poetic works in English. The manuscript survived centuries of political turmoil … even a horrendous fire. Its existence today is nothing short of miraculous.
Storyline Set between 500 and 700 AD, the epic tells the story of Beowulf, who is the son of Scyld Shefing, a Scandanavian King. The narration opens with a recapitulation of Scyld’s honor, and a description of his funeral. When Scyld passes away, Beowulf becomes his heir, and the new hero of the tale. Beowulf, a Geat, heads to Denmark to visit his cousin, Hrothgar.
Hrothgar has constructed a tremendous mead hall—Heorot– on the island of Zealand (present day Copenhagen) … but there is just one problem …
GRENDEL!!!!! Grendel is a scary monster that terrorizes Hrothgar’s mead hall.
Ye Olde English Old English contains several sounds unrepresented in the Latin alphabet. The runes for these sounds were: æ ("asc", pronounced "ash”) ð ("eth”, sometimes rendered “oe” þ ("thorn”) and (”wynn"). So the opening lines of the epic look like this:
Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum, þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon. Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum, monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah, egsode eorlas. Syððan ærest wearð feasceaft funden, he þæs frofre gebad, weox under wolcnum, weorðmyndum þah, oðþæt him æghwylc þara ymbsittendra ofer hronrade hyran scolde, gomban gyldan. þæt wæs god cyning! And sound like this … Let’s try that in “New” English, shall we?
“What is the secret of this poem that has kept it quintessential to the English literary canon? To this question there must be many answers, perhaps as many as there have been hearers or readers of the poem. But certainly common to every experience of Beowulf is the sense that its poetry reaches, somehow like lightning, to the core of what we understand about ourselves stripped to basics, even amid the twentieth century world of central heating and computers. Interlaced with the stories of Beowulf ’s battles with monsters are tales of human struggle and less than exemplary people: Heremod, the wicked king who hoarded people, and put many of his own to death; Modthryth, the queen who arbitrarily executed those who displeased her; and Hrothulf, the treacherous usurper-in-waiting. The struggles the poem depicts are of the good against evil: strength of sinew, heart and spirit, truth and light, pitted against dark power that gives no quarter as it shifts from shape to shape. That the darkness (be it Grendel, a dragon, or treachery, greed, and pride) is familiar only renders it more frightening -- and the more instructive.” -- Robert F. Yeager, “Why Read Beowulf?”
Sources Yeager, Robert F. “Why Read Beowulf?” 03/yeager.htmlhttp://www.neh.gov/news/humanities/ /yeager.html A Pictorial Guide to Beowulf: Greene Hamlet “Resources for the Study of Beowulf”: Audio Extracts from Heaney’s Translation: Beowulf Comparative Translations: