2Britain Before the Anglo-Saxons The most important of the early conquerors were the Celts, (with a hard K sound; NOT like Boston Celtics…) who were from southern Europe and migrated /invaded the British Isles between 800 and 600 BCEOne group was called Brythons (guess where they landed); the other were known as Gaels who settled in what is now Ireland (Gaelic, get it?)
3The Celts, briefly Farmers and hunters Tightly-knit clans Druids (a class of priests) settled arguments when clans needed to settle disputes, presided over religious rituals (including sacrifice and prayer)Druids also had the duty of memorizing and reciting long, heroic poems that preserved the people myths about the past (so they are like bards/minstrels/SCOPS
4Roman ConquestIn 55 BC, we have the next set of conquerors, the Romans under Julius CaesarThey brought well-paved roads through the woodland wilderness and a highway system, as well as skills in warfareThey lasted until around 400 AD, when the Anglo-Saxons showed up
5Anglo-Saxon ConquestIt’s unclear who exactly they were, but historians have some educated guesses. They may have been deep-sea fishermen who were marauding coasts along the Baltic Sea. Or perhaps farmers seeking better soil than the marshy land back home.The Angles and the Saxons were tribes of people who didn’t just perform their piracy to plunder; they sought and won territory, apparently by rowing their shallow boats up the river and then building camps and waging war on the Britons. They gradually gained more and more land and took over what is now England (Angle-land).
6Anglo-Saxon Conquest: some terms and beliefs The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes transferred to England their highly organized tribal units. Each tribe was ruled by a king who was chosen by a Witan, a council of elders.Four classes: earls – hereditary ruling warlords who owed their position to the kingFreeman, who could own land and engage in commerce. This class includes thanes, early barons, who were granted their status as a reward for military serviceThe lowest classes were the serfs (they work the land in return for military protection) and thralls (who are slaves or military prisoners.The Early A/Saxons worshipped ancient Germanic gods (Tiu, god a war and sky; Woden, chief of gods and Fria, Woden’s wife). This is where we get some days of the week.
7SO…to review: Celts, Roman, Anglo-Saxons, Scandinavians, Normans Celts invaded in 500 BCRomans invaded in 55 BC, 43 CE and left in 407 CE (Italian)Anglo-Saxons invaded in 449 CE (Germanic)Scandinavians invaded in late 700 CE, 800’s, and end of the 900’sNormans invaded in CE (France-Normandy)
8The Coming of Christianity During the 4th century, the Romans had accepted Christianity and introduced it to Britain.A century later, when Celts fled from A/S, they took their Christian faith with them to Wales. From there it spread to Ireland, assisted by St. PatrickIt comes back with St. Augustine, who set up a monastery and converted the king and by 650, most of England is Christian in name.It is in this world that Beowulf gets written; the church brings back 2 elements of civilization missing since the time of the Romans: education and written literature
9Old English ( )Hwæt we Gâr Dena in gear-dagum peod-cyninga prym gefrunon, hu oa æpelingas ellen fremedon Hear me! The Spear Danes in days gone by and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness. We have heard of those prince’s heroic campaigns.
10Beowulf Things Which Must Be Known Represents the merging of 2 religions: Pagan and Christianity b/c the missionaries were converting people around the time this story was being passed along through the oral tradition, 500 AD-ishWas written down, probably, by a trained Christian poet b/c it used conventional modes of poetic utterances and traditional poetic forms.Also, the subject matter of poetry was changing from almost all heroic to more religious, as this is a merging of the twoThe poet himself could’ve been a scop or from a monastery, as most believe, an educated poet who was associated with a monasteryIt was likely written down around the early 700s to 900sBeowulf is the oldest surviving English poem – written in old English which is the basis for the language we speak today.
11About the ManuscriptSome of the Anglo-Saxon poetic devices in it are kennings, alliteration, similes, litotes, antithesis, balance and parallelism, and caesuraSome of the characters actually existedThe manuscript was saved in the late 1500s. Henry VIII was dissolving the monasteries and so their libraries were in danger. It was saved a # of times from near death (fires have charred away some portion) until in 1753, the British Museum got the original, made two copies (1882 & 1959), and later preserved each page in plastic.An earlier copy of the manuscript was written down sometime around the 11th century CE and is kept in the British Museum
12Beowulf’s Provenance: So what’s happened to the manuscript since the 11th century? Eventually, it ended up in the library of this guy.Robert Cotton ( )
13Beowulf in the British Museum Beowulf is a sweeping action packed epic – how did it get there – it was found in the 11th Century of Robert Cotton ( ) his library burned in 1731 – Beowulf was partially damaged
14Setting: Beowulf’s time and place Insert: Time of BeowulfEurope today
15A few things to watch out for The Poetry in BeowulfA few things to watch out for1. 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 four, where the scop takes a breathd. No rhyme
16A few things to watch out for The Poetry in BeowulfA few things to watch out forAlliterative verse – an example from Beowulf:Oft Scyld Scefing sceapena praetum,Monegum maegpum meodo-setla ofteah;Egsode Eorle, syddan aerest weard.
17A few things to watch out for The Poetry in BeowulfA few things to watch out forThere was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,A wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.The terror of the hall-troops had come far.(Seamus Heaney translation)
18A few things to watch out for The Poetry in BeowulfA few things to watch out for2. LitotesA negative expression; usually an understatementExample:Hildeburh had no cause to praise the JutesIn this example, Hildeburh’s brother has just been killed by the Jutes. This is a poetic way of telling us she hated the Jutes absolutely.
19Some terms you’ll want to know scopA bard or story-teller.The scop was responsible for praising deeds of past heroes, for recording history, and for providing entertainment
20Some terms you’ll want to know comitatusLiterally, this means “escort” or “comrade”This term identifies the concept of warriors and lords mutually pledging their loyalty to one another
21Mead HallThe large hall where the lord and his warriors slept, ate, held ceremonies
22Some terms you’ll want to know wyrdFate. This idea crops up a lot in the poem, while at the same time there are Christian references to God’s will. But Fate in the Anglo-Saxon world stems from one’s choices.
23Some terms you’ll want to know elegyAn elegy is a poem that is sad or mournful, and it’s usually about death. The adjective is elegaic.werguildSomeone’s honor price. The family is compensated for someone’s death. Note that when Hondshew gets eaten by Grendel, this is mentioned
24Themes and Important Aspects Good vs. EvilReligion: Christian and Pagan influencesThe importance of wealth and treasureThe importance of the sea and sailingThe sanctity of the homeFateLoyalty and allegianceCharacteristics of a Hero and heroic deeds
25Epic Poema LONG narrative poem (it tells a story) on a great and serious subject that- is told in an elevated, formal style (fancy words, very serious, almost ceremonial)has a heroic or quasi-divine character on whose actions depend the fate of something huge like a nation or the whole human race or the universe.
26Traditional epics developed from the Oral Tradition, which means historical and legendary tales passed down through generations of story-telling.They are often during a period of expansion and warfare.Classical Epic poems: the Illiad, the Odyssey; Anglo- Saxon epic: BeowulfLater ones written in deliberate imitation of those above: Virgil’s Aeneid, Milton’s Paradise Lost
27There are all sorts of rules/conventions these types of tales must follow: hero has to be of great national or cosmic importance. In the Greek ones, he is usually related to the gods somehow (Achilles, Aeneas)the setting must be VAST. So the hero will often go on a long journey that takes years, during which he visits many different lands.There must be superhuman deeds in battle (Achilles, Odysseus, Beowulf)Gods and/or supernatural folks take an active interest or even participate and offer advice
28All of the previous traits are part of the archetypal hero’s journey, which has several stages. The most important ones for our purpose: the hero has to have a “descent into darkness,” which in the Greek Tales usually means a trip to the Underworld; he also must grow as a character during this journey and return home changed. Odysseus learns from his adventures. He had to experience all these things to become who he is. As Tennyson puts Odysseus’ thoughts, “Much have I seen and known…and drunk delight of battle with my peers, far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. I am a part of all that I have met;”
29Rules for the Writing Style In the Greek epics, the narrator begins with an invocation to the muse. He’s asking for inspiration so he can tell his tale better. There are 9 muses; one of them (Calliope) is the muse of epic poetry. The Anglo-Saxon scop calls for our attention with “HWAET!”story beings in medias res, in the middle of the action, and then the narrative has flashbacks to catch up to where you began, and then it moves on from there. Notice that in Beowulf, after the prologue, it’s understood that Grendel had been rampaging for 12 winters before Beowulf shows up.
30Other Elements of Style That You’ll Notice: Epics reflect the important conventions of their time, like the importance of the patriarchal lineage (who’s your daddy?), the role of a good king/warrior, and other patterns you should look forBecause these stories were performed, there are lots of repetitive clues and wordplay to keep the characters straight. Homer used epithets (grey-eyed goddess), but the Anglo-Saxons use Kennings (whale-road, sea bench, candle of heaven).The end!
31What did England Look Like? Petty kingdomsLanguage – governed by Roman Catholic ChurchMonastic institutions – cultural identityDanish invasions of the 9th Century – King Alfred’s efforts to institute Latin religious and historical worksSecular works like Beowulf were not set in EnglandThe Norman Conquest disrupted the literary culture of Anglo-Saxon England. The practice of alliterative verse continued until the fifteenth century, primarily in the north- and southwest corners of the island. But Beowulf disappeared from English literature until the manuscript, already singed by the fire that consumed so much of Sir Robert Cotton's library, was first noticed in the eighteenth century and was not transcribed and published until 1815 by an Icelander, Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin, at the time Royal Archivist of Denmark, under the Latin title De Danorum Rebus Gestis: Poema Danicum Dialecto Anglosaxonica (About the Deeds of the Danes: a Danish Poem in the Anglo-Saxon Dialect). Thorkelin believed that the poem was a Danish epic, its hero a Danish warrior, and its poet a contemporary witness of these events who was present at Beowulf's funeral. Subsequently, German scholars claimed that the poem had been originally composed in northern Germany in the homeland of the Angles, who invaded Britain in the fifth century
32Sutton Hoo – An Anglo-Saxon Burial Ground Site was found in 1939 on the property of Mrs. Edith Pretty who died before it was fully excavatedTreasures from an Anglo-Saxon Ship burial at Sutton Hoo, SuffolkTreasures collected from Germany, Scandinavia, Alexandria, ByzantiumCurrently stored at the British Museum
33The Epic Long narrative poem – story about heroes Epic Conventions – invoke a muse – poet states the subject or purpose of the poem and calls upon a museIn Medias Res – in the middle of things – actions is already underwayElevated style - tone, diction, syntaxSupernatural forcesValorous deedsEpic hero – embodies the culture and values and ideals of a nation or culture
34Major Themes of Beowulf Good versus EvilChristianity’s influenceThe importance of wealth and treasureCharacteristics of a heroSanctity of homeLoyalty and AllegianceBraveryFate
35Beowulf’s Provenance It is set in Scandinavia (what is now Sweden) Tribe known as the GeatsSet around CEThere are VikingsChristian references…pagan ideals long since pastOral TraditionMonsters, Dragons, Kings, Princes, Magic, and more….It all starts with a monster…and a scopGrendel takes center stage at the start of the epic – he emerges out of a kind of darkness and terror –Beowulf comes to help HrothgarScop – storyteller –or shop
36Literary Elements of Beowulf Kennings – two-word poetic renamings like “Whales’ home” for the sea, compound nounsAssonance – repeated vowele sounds in unrhymed stressed syllablesAlliteration – repeated initial consonant sounds in stressed syllablesParallelism – parataxis series of parallel constructions strung toether one after another using coordinating conjunctions such as and..Metonymy – object linked to another object where an object stands for another – suits for businessmen, shield for the people, etc.Litotes – understatement, generally ironic and sometimes even humorous using negatives and double negativesElegy – a poem mourning the loss of someone or something