2 The Anglo-Saxons:449 AD: Germanic mercenaries arrived from the Northern coasts of Europe to attack the BritonsAngles, Saxons, JutesBy 500 AD, many invaders had settled.Archaeology has revealed much of the Anglo-Saxons, through cemeteriesMost famous: Sutton Hoo in Sulfolk30-foot oak ship buried there
3 Mingling of Celtic and Christian Beliefs Mythology of Celts influenced British/Irish writers to this daySir Thomas Malory, wrote Le Morte d’Arthur based on Celtic legendsYeats used Celtic myths in poetry and playsJulius Caesar invaded in 55 BC, bringing Christian beliefsBy 409, Rome had to focus on trouble at home, leaving Britain ripe for invasionCountry disjointed, various leaders till King Alfred the Great led the Anglo-Saxons against the Viking Danes, who attacked 8th/9th centuries
4 Social Mores Warfare order of day Law/order responsibility of leader Fame/success, survival, gained only through loyalty to leader (especially during war)Women given rights to own property, throughout marriage. They were given gifts of money and land from their prospective husbands and they, not their family or husband, had control over this possession.
5 Religion ContinuedIrish/Continental (European) missionaries had large role to play in re-emergence of ChristianityStill, Anglo-Saxon religion remainedDark, fatalistic religion from GermanyHad much in common with Norse/Scandinavian mythology2 Important gods: Wodin (from Odin)Helped humans communicate with spiritsThunor (from Thor, god of thunder/lightening); sign hammer and swastikaDragon: personified death and guardian of grave mound
6 Beowulf Summary Written sometime between 700-750 in Old English Short = 3200 lines (Homer’s epics = 15,000)Only manuscript in British Museum in London from year 1000; rescued from the burning monastery that Henry VIII ordered demolishedCharacters:Beowulf: Geat, son of Edgetho and nephew of Higlad, king of the Geats
7 Beowulf Summary Cont.Grendel: man-eating monster who lives at bottom or foul mere (mountain lake)Herot: golden guest hall built by King Hrothgar, the Danish ruler. Decorated with antlers of stags; name means “hart (stag) hall”Hrothgar: king of the Danes, builder of Herot. Had once befriended Beowulf’s father.Wiglaf: Geat warrior, one of Beowulf’s select band & only one to help in final fight
8 Beowulf Vital Elements The Boast: There were no newspapers, radios, TV’s in those days. Beowulf had to “sell himself” to get things done. Must list accomplishments. Even when Unferth challenges him, Beowulf doesn’t back down.Epic Poetry: lengthy narrative poem, concerning subject of heroic deeds and events significant to subject or nation. Beowulf considered Medieval Epic ( )
9 Beowulf Vital Elements Alliteration: repetition of first consonant sound in a phrase. “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”. Can also take form of assonance (repetition of vowel). “And stepping softly with her air of blooded ruin about the glade in a frail agony of grace she trailed her rags throgh dust and ashes” –Cormac McCarthyCaesura: an audible pause that breaks up a line of verse (not necessarily with punctuation)Hyperbole: exaggeration. Where statements are exaggerated
10 Beowulf Vital Elements Cont. Kenning: a special metaphor made of compound words. Gas guzzler, head-hunter. Earliest: sky-candle (sun), battle-dew (blood), whale-road (sea). Later/more elaborate: foamy-throated sea stallion (ship). Often used as prepositional phrase (wolf of hounds) or possessives (the sword’s tree)
11 Beowulf Vital Elements Cont. Served three purposes:Norse/Anglo-Saxon language did not have a large vocabulary. Poets created alliterative words by combining existing wordsB/C poetry was oral, ready-made phrases were very handy for bards, making poetry easier to rememberIncreasing complex structure would satisfy Anglo-Saxon people’s taste for elaboration
12 Beowulf Vital Elements Cont. Stock epithets: a descriptive word/phrase that becomes a stock phrase. That is, it stands in for the person it’s describing. Exs: the Lord of Life, the Ruler of Heaven
13 Background to Section We’re Reading Epic opens with a tribute to the ancestry of King HrothgarThe first, Shield Sheafson, is fatherless (Beowulf too was left fatherless at young age)Familial lineage is central in cultureHeroic code delineated in opening lines:Greatness measured by number of clans conqueredStrength leads to treasure (captured pay money)Sheafson passes the wealth on to his warriors (hero measured by passing out sums of wealth (Hrothgar erects mead hall for his men)
14 Background to Section We’re Reading Hrothgar & Beowulf’s Father’s History:Beowulf’s father killed leader of fellow tribe, Wulfing…Hrothgar sent treasure to mend feud…Beowulf’s father pledged loyalty to HrothgarExplains weirgild “death price”. Only way to keep vengeance from spiraling out indefinatelyBeowulf is not just offering services out of kindness: it’s his way of repaying his father’s debt to Hrothgar
15 Questions/ Activities Describe what happens to Grendel when he raids Herot and encounters BeowulfWhat prevents Beowulf’s men from helping Beowulf in his battle with Grendel?Why is it significant that Grendel hunts at night?Why is it important to Beowulf and to his image as an epic hero that he face Grendel without a weapon? What symbolism do you see in the uselessness of human-made weapons against Grendel?
16 Questions/ Activities Create list of kennings for yourselfBegin writing your own boastLook at lines , 407, 426 for examples of boastingLook at lines to locate:AlliterationKenningsHyphenated compoundsPrepositional phrasesPossessives