Presentation on theme: "The Poem The Society Christian Tradition Values Techniques Themes"— Presentation transcript:
1 The Poem The Society Christian Tradition Values Techniques Themes BeowulfThe PoemThe SocietyChristian TraditionValuesTechniquesThemes
2 The Poemthe oldest of the great long poems written in English more than 1200 years agocomposed in the first half of the 8th century deals with their Germanic forebears, with 2 south Scandinavian tribes--the Danes and the Geatsconcerns a time following the initial invasion of England by Germanic tribes in 449 AD (5th~6th Cent.)the composer “Christianizes” the workAuthor removes most of the supernatural references and softens the bloody overtones of the original poem (to remove the pagan deities)an epic, not as complete as Homer's epicsmore elegy than epic: a poem honoring Beowulf: his heroic exploits and his death-- the past hero--honoring the past way of life
3 Societal Values Values of Anglo-Saxon Society tribal society with kinship bondsheroic code of behaviorbraveryloyalty to one’s lord, one’s warband (comitatus), and one’s kinwillingness to avenge one’s lord or warband without regard for personal danger or cost—death preferable to exile and lordless lifegenerosity of lord to thanes and of hero to warband and lord—gift-givingheroism (i.e., great deeds) brings honor, eternal fame, and political power
4 Women were portrayed as peace-weavers married to powerful men from enemy states to bring political solidarity and to reconcile warring kingdomsnot entirely successfulmix of pagan and Christian valuesoften in conflict, e.g., pagan (secular) lineage (Geats, Danes, etc.) vs Christian lineage (race of Cain)eternal earthly fame through deeds vs afterlife in hell or heavenhonor and gift-giving vs sin of pride (hubris); revenge vs pacifist view (forgiveness); Wyrd (Anglo-Saxon "Fate") vs God’s will, etc.Germanic revenge ethic is consistent with Old Law of retribution (Old Testament Lex Talionis), not with New Testament Law of forgiveness.songs, tale-telling, and boasting (i.e., words) inscribe deeds in the cultural memory — oral transmission
5 Christian Tradition God: the Creator of all things the ruler of the Heavens - God's willidentical with fate of Grendel: descendent of Cain the race of giant destroyed by floodthe dead await God's judgementBUT no reference to the New Testament in Beowulfalso reflects an ancient pagan, warrior society tradition, in the sense of tragic waste
6 Values it evokes1) human relationship between the warrior (the thane) and his lordmutual trust and respectloyalty treasured --a kind of visible proof that all parties are realizing themselves to the full in a spiritual sensesymbolic importance (spiritual material; give honor/worth, value, ultimate achievement)The warrior society centered in the mead-hall provided by the lord for his and their protectionGift-giving: acknowledging one's worth (primitive and sophisticated)Boasting: challenging yourself to gain renown, reputation: feeling of worth
7 relationship between kinsmen to exact wergild (manprice) or to take vengeance for their kinsmen's deaththe need to take vengeance created never-ending feuds, bloodshed, a vast web of reprisals and counter-reprisals (a strong sense of doom) fatal evilQuests: In undertaking the slaying of Grendel, later Grendel's mother, and the later, thye dragon, Beowulf is testing his relationship with unknowable destiny.Whether he lives or dies, he will have done all that any man could do to develop his character heroically courage/ fate / "the boasting" pagan immortality.The memory in the minds of later generation; through the writing of the poet, will keep him alive.
8 Poetic Techniques Alliteration (Peter Piper…) Kenning (figurative expression: oar-steed = ship)BoastingLitotes (understatements)Interlacing (digression) storyEpic (long, adventure,The poet honored the hero and the end of a cultural group far earlier in the old English period to take the past of old culture that is coming to an end and a good start of new Christian culture. The poem ends with Beowulf's death: the old society, something beautiful has passed away: Human--mortality
9 ThemesThe transience and the potentiality--or inevitability--of sudden attack, sudden change, swift death - omnipresentLittle hope to escape - strong sense of doomFeud: the tragic waste - the system of revenge repeated in the poemWars settled by Beowulf kept Beowulf's death feud going onThe contest /eternal conflict between dark and light, good and evil Fate:"fate often saves the undoomed man when his courage is good.“"God often saves the man when his courage is good."
10 Fate: God's will and one's own courage together Courage is the quality that can perhaps influence Fate“Beowulf” is chiefly concerned not with tribal feuds but with fatal evil that threatens to the security of the lands.Because the evil monsters are outside the normal order of things, they require of their conqueror something greater than normal warfare requires.Unlike Beowulf, the old Hrothgar lacks this quality that later impels the old Beowulf to fight the dragon.Hrothgar is not the kind of man to develop his human potential to the fullest extent that Fate would permit: that is Beowulf's role.
11 Boasting: a warrior's tradition--a way of forcing oneself to achieve a higher level, to find the best.When one boasts, he is choosing the heroic way of life.One's boast becomes a vowThe hero has put himself in a position from which he cannot withdraw.Treasure :Beowulf gives the gift received from Hrothgar to Hygelac, his king - a gesture of good will, a gesture of generosity.The gifts are proof of Beowulf's value & worth as a warrior.Understatement (to say less than might be said; a typical way of speaking in old English)