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ENGLISH Literature. Early Literature. Historical background of earliest England.

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english literature

ENGLISH Literature

Early Literature


About seven hundred years BC. Celtic tribes came to Britain but not all of them stopped there, from one of the earliest Celtics groups the language of Ireland has taken its name Gaelic and from a later group “the Brythons” the island came to be called Britain.


The Romans come and go

  • The power of Rome had been growing and when they arrived, pushed back the Celts. But not all was going well in Rome, barbaric tribes were thrusting against the roman frontiers. So gradually roman Britain was left more and more exposed to invasion.

The Anglo- Saxons gradually took over the whole of eastern and central and southern Britain. For two hundred years confusion reigned in the land now called, after the lasted invaders (the Angles), England.


Meanwhiletherehadbeen a verydifferentkind of invasion , thiswasthecoming of ChristianitytoBritain. Probably a RomanlegionthathadserveduinJerusalemwastranferredtobritain and theyhadbecomeChristians and spread news of Christianity . Withthewithdrawal of theRomans and theinvasion of BritainbytheSaxons; Christianitywascompletelystampedout, except in suchremotedistrics as Wales.

christianity reaches britain

ChristianityarrivedtoIreland and was so firmelyestablishedthatitpersistedthereevenwhenitnearlydissapepeared in England.

the new culture is threatened by vikings
The new cultureisthreatenedbyvikings

A fiercetribe of sea- faringmenfromNorway and Denmarkbegantoattack and stealalongthesouth and eastcoasts. TheseDanesor VIKINGS begantosettledown in north- easternEnglandbut Alfred, King of English in thesouth, and hissoldiersheldthem back.

the literature of earliest england
  • Theenglishpeoples of England HAD NOT writtenliterature. Onlysystems of notches and linesonstones. Buttheyhadstorytellerswhosang of thetriumphs and tragedies of theirpeople and thesestorieswerepasseddownbyword of mouthfromgenerationtogeneration.
  • Thelanguages of earliestEngland
  • EachracethatcameintoEnglandBroughtitsownlanguage. TheceltsspokeGaelic, theromansbroughtlatintheinvadersfromthenorthernpart of thecontinentsbroughttheirgermaniclanguages, and finallywiththecoming of theNormans , norman frenchwasintroducedintoEngland.
the celtic heritage cuchulain
The Celtic Heritage:Cuchulain

Many of the earliest Celtic poems center about Cuchulain, and these stories may have taken shape as early as the first century.


Cúchulainnisthe central character. He wasthegreatest of theKnights of the Red Branch,thewarriorsloyaltoConor (ConchobarmacNessa), whowasreputedlyking of theUlaids of northeastIreland at aboutthebeginning of the 1st centurybc. CúChulainn, born as Setanta, the son of thegodLug (Lugh) of the Long Arm and Dechtire, thesister of Conor, was of greatsize and masculinebeauty and won distinctionforhisexploitswhilestill a child.

the anglosaxon poem beowulf
The Anglosaxon poem:Beowulf
  • Earliest surviving piece of english literature.
  • The story takes place in Denmark and Southern Sweden.
  • Unknown author, possibly one Christian author in Anglo-Saxon England
  • Unknown date of composition (roughly 8th-11th Century AD)
  • This is an epic poem.
  • It is written in the most common Anglo Saxon verse form, which is alliterative
  • Beowulf consist of at least three separate stories, each recounting an exploit of the hero against a monster or dragon.
principal characters of beowulf

Beowulf, a great hero.

Hrothgar, king of the Danes.

Unferth, Danish warrior

Wiglaf, beowulf’s nephew

Hygelac, king of the Geats and Beowulf’s uncle.

Grendel, man- monster, descendant of Cain.

Grendel’s mother

The dragon

geats and danes
Geats and Danes
  • Beowulf was a war leader of the Geats, a group of people in what is now southern Sweden
  • Hrothgar was king of the Danes
literary terms
  • KENNINGS: oldenglish, isusedinstead of anordinarynoun. Thetermkennig has beenappliedbymodernscholarsto similar figures of speech in otherlanguagestoo, speciallyolgenglish.
  • ALLITERATION: istherepetition of initialsounds in neghbouringwords.
  • Assonanceistherepetition of vowelsoundsbutnotconsonantsounds in consonance: fleetfeetsweepby sleeping geeks.
  • Consonanceistherepetition of consonantsounds as in acconance: lady loungeslazily.
  • REPETITION: repetition of a sound, syllable, word, phrase, line ormetricalpatternisbasicunifyingdevice in allpoetry.
  • RHYTHM: recurrences of stressed and unstressedsyllables at equalintervals, similar to meter.
  • CAESURA: is a natural pause or break. England- how I longforthee!

POETRY: is a form of literary art in whichlanguageisusedforitsaesthetic and evocativequalities in additiontoitsapparentmeaning. Poetrymaybewrittenindependentlyormayoccur in conjunction.

  • UNIQUE VERSE FORM: free verse poetrydoesnothavestrictpattern of rhyming. Itdoesnothave regular meter, rhyme, fixed line length, or a specificstanzapattern.
  • RHYME: a pattern of repeatedsounds . In endrhyme, therhymeis at theend of the line.
  • RHYME SCHEME: thepattern of rhymedwords in a stanzaorgeneralizedthroughout a poem, exprressed in alphabeticterms.
elements of an epic
Elements of an Epic
  • Epic hero– an character with a trait or characteristic that is valued by his society.
    • (E.g.– Superman’s bravery or valor)
  • Quest– A journey through which the character or the reader learns something
  • Valorous Deeds– Doing something bravely.
  • Divine Intervention– The hand of God (or gods) help the hero, proving his value.
  • Great events– The hero has a hand in something important in the history or mythology of a culture.