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Beowulf: Background About 3rd and 4th century Geats and Danes

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1 Beowulf: Background About 3rd and 4th century Geats and Danes
Written down between (725 is the date we have) Epic poem Written in Old English

2 Beowulf:Epic poem An epic is a specific genre of classical poetry; it is a narrative poem there are various elements present in a traditional epic Epic Hero Quest Valorous Deeds Divine intervention (not always present) Great events (that shape history) Usually starts “in media res” in the middle Epic hero: The epic hero is the central character of an epic. This character is a larger-than-life figure, typically of noble or semidivine birth, who pits his courage, skill, and virtue against opposing, often evil, forces. Quest: A quest is a long, dangerous journey or mission undertaken by the epic hero. The quest is the hero’s opportunity to prove his heroism and win honor and undying renown. Valorous deeds: These actions demonstrate the hero’s courage, strength, or virtue and make up most of the action in the narrative. Divine intervention: In many epics, the hero receives help from a god or another supernatural force who takes an interest in his quest. In the ancient Greek epic the Iliad, for example, the goddess Athene helps the hero Achilleus.

3 What are the attributes of an Anglo-Saxon hero?
Courage, strength Skill with weapons Does not retreat Wins or dies in attempt Follows a code Motivated by: fame, revenge, helping others Gold, generosity and rewards

4 Beowulf: Themes Inevitability of death Presence of evil in society
The need for good to conquer over evil Destruction of a proud hero Defining one’s identity Tension between cultural values Which values should one follow?



7 Beowulf: Paganism and Christianity
Anglo-Saxons may have believe in Fate- they called this “wyrd” Used to be a polytheistic culture The last Pagan king in Britain died in late 600’s *ruled in one section-Wessex* Paganism became a part of folklore Christianity came to Anglo-Saxons in 597 when St. Augustine set up the first monastery

8 Loaded language in Beowulf
Denotation- the explicit or direct meaning or set of meanings of a word or expression Connotation- the associated or secondary meaning of a word or expression in addition to its explicit or primary meaning

9 9/16/10 Copy Agenda and HW Pass Up Vocab. Slogans PUT YOUR NAME ON THEM! Answer the following Type I in your Notes section: What do you consider the characteristics of a hero? (4 Lines)

10 Turn to Page 21 We will read Part 1 together and I will model what you should do after each part. Part 1: Hrothgar (Danish king) and his men vs. Grendel (a monster spawned from descendents of Cain) Part 2: Grendel goes to Herot (town where Hrothgar is) at night after the men are drunk and sleeping. Grendel kills and eats at least thirty men and leaves.

11 Beowulf: Discussion- The Monster Grendel
What kind of state is Herot in for the twelve years leading up to the arrival of Beowulf? Deserted, empty, lamenting losses. They constantly debated how to get rid of Grendel.

12 Beowulf: Discussion- Coming of Grendel
Why didn’t Grendel touch Hrothgar’s throne? It is protected by God.

13 Beowulf: Discussion- Coming of Grendel
3. What words show a bias against Grendel and make him appear to be “evil”? (Find words with a negative connotation and make line references.) Grendel has “hatred” ; he “relishes in savage war”; he does not seek peace or offer a truce; he has “plundering claws”; he is “mankind’s enemy”; he is “bloodthirsty and horrible”;

14 Beowulf: Discussion- Coming of Grendel
4. What is the first image that the reader has of Beowulf? How would you characterize Beowulf after reading this description? What images are present? Be specific. “he is the strongest of the Geats”; greater and stronger than anyone in this world

15 Beowulf: The Arrival of the Hero
Let’s continue reading aloud parts 4 and 5. Keep notes on your own. How is Beowulf described? Why does Beowulf go to help the Danes? How does Beowulf feel about himself? What lines tell you this?

16 Beowulf: The Arrival of Beowulf
Summary: Beowulf is welcomed by Wulfgar, a lord He is welcomed by the Danes Beowulf describes why he is a fit opponent for Grendel- discusses his previous conquests and He says he will purge the Danes of the Monster Discusses fate- seems to have no fear

17 Unferth’s Challenge What role does the character of Unferth seem to play in relationship to Beowulf? Why would this be necessary? Unferth is the first person to challenge Beowulf. He calls him a “boastful fool” (240) and blames Beowulf’s pride for his silly swimming match. The author may have felt that it was necessary to oppose Beowulf for many reasons. Gives Beowulf the opportunity to tell his story It also hints to a possible flaw in the hero- excessive pride

18 Unferth’s Challenge 2. How does Unferth view Beowulf? What phrase (include line number) tells you? Unferth does not think highly of Beowulf and does not have faith that he will conquer Grendel. “boastful fool” (240)

19 Unferth’s Challenge 3. How does Beowulf’s reply to Unferth defend himself? - Beowulf begins by admitting the he was “too young to know better” but explains how courageous he was during this adventure. Beowulf explains that no strength was a match for his. He shows his strength in conquering sea monsters.

20 Beowulf: Unferth’s Challenge
4. What is Beowulf’s explanation for not leaving Brecca far behind? What does this tell you about Beowulf’s opinion of himself? He says “He could never leave me behind, swim faster across the waves than I could, and I had chosen to remain close to his side. I remained near his for five long nights”.

21 Unferth’s Challenge 5. When Beowulf was seized by the monster, what does he credit with saving him? Copy down the line that tells you the answer. FATE! “A monster seized me, drew me swiftly toward the bottom, swimming with its claws tight in my flesh. But fate let me find its heart with my sword”

22 Unferth’s Challenge 7. After he defends himself, how does Beowulf insult Unferth? Cite 2 examples from the text. Beowulf says to Unferth that he “murdered his brothers” “he will suffer in hell” And Unferth is not brave enough to fight Grendel

23 Beowulf: Unferth’s Challenge
8. What does Beowulf promise to the Geats? To rid them of Grendel. 9. What do you predict will happen in the Battle with Grendel?

24 Unferth’s Challenge Summary
They have a feast to prepare Unferth’s Taunt Unferth challenges Beowulf “speaks harshly” Calls Beowulf “boastful” “young and proud” Is Unferth on point or he is critical because he himself cannot be a hero like Beowulf?

25 Unferth’s Challenge Summary
Beowulf responds with little anger He continues to reaffirm his strength and bravery He tells of a time when he swam through the ocean for 5 nights and killed seacreatures with a sword in hand He is a survivor Challenges Unferth

26 Unferth’s Challenge Summary
Beowulf becomes more accusatory as time goes on… Beowulf Says that Unferth killed his own brothers Hrothgar is very happy to hear all of these promises- ignores any slights that Beowulf makes against the Danes “Let me live in greatness and courage, or here in this hall welcome my death.”




30 The Battle with Grendel’s Mother
Grendel’s mother comes to avenge her son Beowulf pursues the monster in her lair Beowulf takes a famous sword, lent to him by Unferth named “Hrunting” Cuts off her head

31 The Fight with the Fire Dragon
Beowulf becomes king of the Geatland When he is an old man, his land is ravaged by a fire dragon Wiglaf is Beowulf’s beloved kinsman and friend and assists him Together, the two defeat the dragon However; Beowulf was fatally injured Beowulf regrets that he has no heirs

32 The Burning of Beowulf’s Body
He asks for a great tower to be built in his honor to guide sailors All the jewels he had are gone his story is sung about Everyone agrees that he was a great king and is worthy of praise

33 Final Discussion & Essential Review
Beowulf Final Discussion & Essential Review

34 Essential Background Information
Beowulf author is anonymous Script dated to A.D. 725 Elements of Christianity (references to one god) and Paganism (sacrifice and resigning to fate) Written in Old English Epic poem

35 Setting Time 3rd and 4th century Place Denmark and Sweden People Danes and Geats

36 Themes Inevitability of death Presence of evil in society
The need for good to conquer over evil Destruction of a proud hero Defining one’s identity Tension between cultural values Which values should one follow?

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