Beowulf The Great Epic

Beowulf The Great Epic

6 Reasons why study Beowulf
1. Oldest poem in english language. (everything else stems from it)
2. Has common themes that we still have today in English lit.
3. Simply good writing
4.Doesnt matter what you read but how you read it.
5. Studying old english improves understanding of modern english.
6 GREAT STORY!
What we don’t know about the Epic Beowulf.
1. Who wrote it
2.When it was written
3.How much is based on historical truth.
What we do know about the epic beowulf.
1.Oldest surviving english poem written in old english or (anglo-saxon)
2.Some of the characters in the poem actually exsisted.
3.Only copy of the manuscript was written around 11th century A.D (1000’s)
4. The ACTUAL poem dates from the 8th century(700’s)
5. A lot of christian references and setting are pagan. ( monk probably translated it)
Why wasn’t it written down in the 1st place?
1.pass down orally for centuries b4 it was 1st written down.
2. wsnt until after the norman invasion (1066) that writing stories down bc it was common in this part of the world.
What happened to the manuscript since the 11th century?
eventually it ended up in the library of robert Cotton. (1571-1631)
Setting Of Beowulf is where/ what times
1.Sweden where a tribe called the GEATS lived.
2. Takes place as early as 400 or 500 A.D
How we date Beowulf (important DATES)
-521 A.D- Death of Hygelac, is mentioned in the poem
-680 A.D- the danish started raiding other areas after this few poets would consider them heroes.
The poetry in Beowulf Contains…
1. Alliterative Verse
2.Kennings
3.Litotes
Alliterative Verse
a) Repetition of initial sounds of wrds. (occurs in every line)
b) generally four feet beats per line
c)a caesura, or a PAUSE, btw beats 2&4
EXAMPLE:Oftscyid scefing sceapena praetum
Kennings
a)compound metaphor(usually 2 wrds)
b)Most were used over and over
EXAMPLE:hronade ->”whale road”= sea
banhus->”bone-house”=body
Litotes
Anegative expression; usually an understatement.
EXAMPLE: Hildeburn had no cause to praise The jutes (Meaning)= his brother just been killed by jutes.
Scop
a bard or story teller. Is responsible for praising deeds of past heroes, recording history, provide entertainment.
Comitatus
escort or comrade . CONCEPT of a WARRIOR. Pledging their loyalty.
Thane
WARRIOR
Mead-hall
Hall where the lord and his warriors sleep, eat, and have ceremonies.
Wyrd
FATE Christian references. What they believed in
EPIC
LARGER THAN LIFE HERO.conflict of universal importance . SERIOUS (narrative poem )
Elegy/ elegaic
Poem thats sad or mournful
Homily
A sermon Or section in poem that gives direct advice .
Characteristics of an epic are…
1.Predestined heroism
2. Vulnerability.(Theyre humans also, they feel emotions)
3. Embodies cultural idea.
4.Proves himself to be a hero.
Actions
Responses to life threatening situations. Often supernatural intervenes
Code of conduct
forces him to challenge any threat to society
What is an EPIC poems
-long narrative poem that recounts the adventures of a hero.
-does not sermonize
-elevated language
-invokes a muse
-begins in media res (Middle )
– mysterious origin, super powers, rights of passage, and vulnerability.
Beowulf
A hero who fights Grendel, Grendel’s Mother and a fire breathing dragon; protagonist.
-EPic Hero
-GEAT from sweden
-Nephew of higlac (King of poems start)
Hrothgar
-Danish king
-builds herot for men (banquet hall)
-harassed by Grendel for 12 years
-lost many men bc of grendel
Grendel
A demon and fiend. eats people , haunts swampy land
Fire dragon
-lives in beowulfs kingdom
-wakes up when theif steals cup
-guards countless treasures
Background info
-30,000 lines of anglo-saxon poetry survive today.
-3,182 (10%) of lines are from beowulf
Setting
Denmark sweden
Author
unknown – probably a monk
when was it Composed ?
7th or 8th century
Oldest surving poem
Elements of Anglo-saxon poetry:
-Chant like effect of 4-beat line
-Alliteration
-Caesura (pause/break)
-Kenning
-hyperbole
Anglo-saxon culture

Wyrd is what they believed in.

The more the more treasures you have the more success

Fame and fortune is what everyone goes after

Loyalty is EVERYTHING

Warrior characteristics (anglo-saxon)

fierce, hardylife of warrior ; seamen.

strength, courage,leadership abilities appreciated

very boastful. Expected to boast

Anglo- saxon hero
Strong
couragous
loyal
desires FAME
generous
Anglo-saxon code of conduct
good defeats evil
expect revenge from victims relatives
Boasts must be backed with actions
Fate is in control
Fair fights are the only honorable fights
Title of the epic poem
Word “Beo”= “bright” or “noble” (smart)
word “Wulf”= Wolf
Smart Wolf