Beowulf. Background and Important Terms. Beowulf Facts. First great work of the English national literature First recorded in the 700s, but set in 449 Before it was written down, Beowulf was told and retold orally by bards, or scops
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Beowulf Background and Important Terms
Beowulf Facts • First great work of the English national literature • First recorded in the 700s, but set in 449 • Before it was written down, Beowulf was told and retold orally by bards, or scops • Bards/Scops were just as important to the Anglo-Saxon culture as warriors, hunters, and farmers
Beowulf’s Context • During the 5th century, the Anglo-Saxons invaded Britain and wiped out the Roman empire • With the defeat of the Romans, Christianity lost popularity and the dark, Pagan religion of the Anglo-Saxons became dominant • However, Christian monks and missionaries still worked to spread Christianity
Beowulf = Epic • Epic: a quest story on a grand scale, typically a long narrative (like Homer’s The Odyssey) • Epic hero: the central figure in an epic poem that reflects the values and heroic ideals of a particular society • Epic hero characteristics: • Superior physical strength • Supremely ethical
Beowulf Literary Terms • Kennings and alliteration are essentials in Anglo-Saxon poetry like Beowulf • Kenning: a metaphorical phrase or compound word used to name a person, place, thing, or event indirectly. • Example: the word “whale-road” means the sea • Alliteration: the repetition of consonant sounds in words that are close to one another, typically occurs at the beginning of words • Example: “slimy, slithering snakes”—repetition of “s” • Symbol: a person, place, thing, or event that stands for itself and for something else • Example: a red rose symbolizes love and passion
Beowulf Characters • Beowulf • Higlac • Hrothgar • Wiglaf • Grendel • Grendel’s mother