Presentation on theme: "What is an epic? Literary Genre of Beowulf Epic:A long narrative poem in elevated style.It presents a character (s) of high degree and details important."— Presentation transcript:
What is an epic? Literary Genre of Beowulf Epic:A long narrative poem in elevated style.It presents a character (s) of high degree and details important events that have a national, worldwide, or cosmic setting.(The Odyssey, the Star Wars films etc.)Traditionally, epics came from oral cultures, were passed down orally, and were of importance to a nation. With the spread of literacy and writing, single authors began to write epics
Characteristics of an Epic Poem 1.) an epic hero of imposing stature and who is meaningful as a legend or historical figure 2.) his/her actions take place on a grand scale and are important nationally, internationally, or worldwide 3.) the action consists of a great deed( s) requiring superhuman courage & maybe superhuman strength 4.) supernatural forces (gods, angels, demons) are involved or interested in the action 5.) the style is grand or elevated
Background of Beowulf Oral story guessed to have been written down around 725.(The events take place hundreds of years earlier, circa 500 - 600, in Sweden and Denmark). -the author is unknown, though it was probably copied down by a Christian monk in England. -the main plot surrounds a warrior-hero named Beowulf and his men.They are from a tribe called the Geats (pronounced yai-ots) who live in Sweden. They have crossed the ocean to Denmark to help a tribe called the Scyldings (pronounced Shildings).The Scyldings are being eaten and killed by an evil monster called Grendel.
Background of Beowulf Continued -the story captures customs, traditions and values of the Anglo-Saxon Society -though this poem chronicles the times of most probably a pagan people, by the time this was written, Christianity had established itself as a powerful presence in England.Therefore, we see God and references from the Bible mentioned often in this text. -stories in Medieval England were often meant to be didactic--teach a lesson (what lesson does Beowulf teach?).
Anglo- Saxon Culture Additional Notes on Anglo-Saxon Culture The mead-hall:within the tribal cluster of wooden buildings surrounded by a strong wooden fence, stood the mead- hall.Here the king and his warriors (called thanes) feasted and drank mead (Anglo-Saxon beer).In the mead-hall, they were entertained by a scop (shope), a poet/story teller/historian. The scop:the job of the scop was very important.Besides telling a story, his job was to retell current and past events, to record, remember, and retell history all from the record of his mind.Fame and honor meant a lot to these people; it was the scop’s job to preserve a record of their achievements for later generations.
Main Characters in Beowulf Main Characters in Beowulf Hygelac (King of the Geats-Beowulf’s king back in Sweden) Unferth (one of Hrothgar’s thanes--he questions Beowulf’s strength and ability ) Wealhtheow (Hrothgar’s wife) Beowulf (The hero.A Geat who leads his band of warriors to find and kill Grendel) Grendel (man-monster who raids Hrothgar’s mead-hall, eating his people) Hrothgar (King of the Scyldings in Denmark)
Relationships in Beowulf Important Relationships to Remember for Understanding: Son of Ecgtheow--Beowulf (also called Hygelac’s thane) Son of Ecglaf--Unferth (also called Hrothgar’s herald) Son of Healfdene--Hrothgar
Kenning Two or more words which, when put together, serve as a symbol or metaphor for another word. These were often used for entertainment, variety, and to keep the beat and rhythm.Sometimes they are obvious to us.Other times, they are more obscure.Examples: candle ofheaven -- the sun peace-weaver -- women light of battle-- sword
Alliteration Alliteration:the repetition of initial consonant sounds.Also used for entertainment, variety, and to keep the beat and rhythm.(Incidentally, Beowulf doesn’t rhyme-- not all poems have to rhyme.Anglo-Saxon poetry is known more for alliteration than rhyme).Example from lines (4-7): Many a mead-hall Scyld, son of Sceaf, Snatched from the forces of savage foes, From a friendless foundling, feeble and wretched, He grew to a terror as time brought change
Caesura Caesura:the building block of Anglo-Saxon poetry.Each line had a pause in the middle to create a kind of beat.By my count, each line had 8 syllables with the pause or the caesura in the middle This is the least important for us to identify in the poem, but we should at least be able to define it