2 Background Information 30,000 lines of Anglo-Saxon poetry survive today3, 182 (10%) of the lines are from BeowulfSetting - Denmark and SwedenAuthor - Unknown, probably a monkComposed in the 7th or 8th centuryOldest surviving English poem
3 Anglo-Saxon Culture Belief in fate (Wyrd) Accumulated treasures amount to successFame and fortune zealously sought afterLoyalty to one’s leader crucialImportance of pagan, Germanic, and Christian ideals to people whose lives were often hard and uncertain
4 Anglo-Saxon Culture Fierce, hardy life of warrior and seamen Strength, courage, leadership abilities appreciatedBoisterous yet elaborately ritualized customs of the mead-hallExpected the hero to boast
5 Anglo-Saxon Ideals Codes of Conduct Good defeats evilWergild--restitution for murder or expect revenge from victim’s relativesBoasts must be backed with actions.Fate is in controlFair fights are the only honorable fights
6 Epic Poem Long narrative poem that recounts the adventures of a hero. Elevated languageDoes not sermonizeInvokes a museBegins in media resMysterious origin, super powers, vulnerability, rite of passage
7 The Epic HeroActions consist of responses to catastrophic situations in which the supernatural often intervenes.Code of conduct forces him to challenge any threat to societyDestiny discovered through a series of episodes punctuated by violent incidents interspersed with idyllic descriptions.
8 Elements of Anglo-Saxon Poetry Chant-like effect of the four-beat lineAlliteration (“Then the grim man in green gathers his strength”)Caesura-pause or break in a line of poetry (“Oft to the wanderer weary of exile”)Kenning-metaphorical phrase used instead of a name (“battle-blade” and “ring-giver”)Epithet-description name to characterize something (“keen-edge sword”)Hyperbole-exaggeration
9 Title of Epic Poem Anglo-Saxon word Beo means “bright” or “noble” Anglo-Saxon word wulf means “wolf”Beowulf means bright or noble wolfOther sources say Beo means “bear”
10 How we date Beowulf Some Important Dates: 521 A.D. – death of Hygelac, who is mentioned in the poem680 A.D. – appearance of alliterative verse835 A.D. – the Danish started raiding other areas; after this, few poets would consider them heroesSO: This version was likely composed between 680 and 835, though it may be set earlier
11 The Poetry in Beowulf 1. Alliterative verse Repetition of initial sounds of words (occurs in every line)b. Generally, four feet/beats per linec. A caesura, or pause, between beats two and fourd. No rhyme
12 The Poetry in Beowulf 2. Kennings a. Compound metaphor (usually two words)b. Most were probably used over and overFor instance: hronade literally means “whale-road,” but can be translated as “sea”
13 More Kennings Other kennings from Beowulf: “bone-house” = body “gold-friend of men” = generous prince“ring-giver” = lord“flashing light” = sword
14 Setting: Beowulf’s time and place Insert: Time of BeowulfEurope today
15 Some 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
16 Terms: Thane and Mead-Hall A warriormead-hallThe large hall where the lord and his warriors slept, ate, held ceremonies, etc.
17 Term: WyrdwyrdFate. This idea crops up a lot in the poem, while at the same time there are Christian references to God’s will.