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Anglo-Saxon and Beowulf Background. Background Information 30,000 lines of Anglo-Saxon poetry survive today 3, 182 (10%) of the lines are from Beowulf.

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Presentation on theme: "Anglo-Saxon and Beowulf Background. Background Information 30,000 lines of Anglo-Saxon poetry survive today 3, 182 (10%) of the lines are from Beowulf."— Presentation transcript:

1 Anglo-Saxon and Beowulf Background

2 Background Information 30,000 lines of Anglo-Saxon poetry survive today 3, 182 (10%) of the lines are from Beowulf Setting - Denmark and Sweden Author - Unknown, probably a monk Composed in the 7th or 8th century Oldest surviving English poem

3 Anglo-Saxon Culture Belief in fate (Wyrd) Accumulated treasures amount to success Fame and fortune zealously sought after Loyalty to one’s leader crucial Importance 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 appreciated Boisterous yet elaborately ritualized customs of the mead-hall Expected the hero to boast

5 Anglo-Saxon Ideals Codes of Conduct Good defeats evil Wergild--restitution for murder or expect revenge from victim’s relatives Boasts must be backed with actions. Fate is in control Fair fights are the only honorable fights

6 Epic Poem Long narrative poem that recounts the adventures of a hero. Elevated language Does not sermonize Invokes a muse Begins in media res Mysterious origin, super powers, vulnerability, rite of passage

7 The Epic Hero Actions consist of responses to catastrophic situations in which the supernatural often intervenes. Code of conduct forces him to challenge any threat to society Destiny 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 line Alliteration (“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 wolf Other sources say Beo means “bear”

10 How we date Beowulf Some Important Dates: 521 A.D. – death of Hygelac, who is mentioned in the poem 680 A.D. – appearance of alliterative verse 835 A.D. – the Danish started raiding other areas; after this, few poets would consider them heroes SO: This version was likely composed between 680 and 835, though it may be set earlier

11 The Poetry in Beowulf 1. Alliterative verse a.Repetition of initial sounds of words (occurs in every line) b. Generally, four feet/beats per line c. A caesura, or pause, between beats two and four d. No rhyme

12 The Poetry in Beowulf 2. Kennings a. Compound metaphor (usually two words) b. Most were probably used over and over For 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 Europe today Insert: Time of Beowulf

15 Some terms you’ll want to know scop A bard or story-teller. The scop was responsible for praising deeds of past heroes, for recording history, and for providing entertainment

16 thane A warrior mead-hall The large hall where the lord and his warriors slept, ate, held ceremonies, etc. Terms: Thane and Mead-Hall

17 wyrd Fate. This idea crops up a lot in the poem, while at the same time there are Christian references to God’s will. Term: Wyrd

18 Main Characters

19 Beowulf Epic hero Geat (from southern Sweden) Nephew of Higlac (King at story’s start) Sails to Denmark to help Hrothgar

20 Hrothgar Danish king Builds Herot (banquet hall) for men Tormented by Grendel for 12 years Loses many men to Grendel Joyless before Beowulf’s arrival

21 Grendel Referred to as demon and fiend Haunts the moors (swampy land) Descendant of Cain Feasts on 30 men the night of 1st attack

22 Grendel’s Mother Referred to as she- wolf Lives under a lake Challenges Hrothgar when she kills one of his best men

23 Fire Dragon Lives in Beowulf’s kingdom Wakes up when thief steals cup Guards countless treasures

24 Works Cited Intro to Beowulf


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