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Beowulf. Background Notes. Early “English” History (>100BCE-400). Prior to 100 BCE this island was inhabited by the Briton (native tribes), Celtic, and Pict tribes.

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    1. Beowulf Background Notes

    2. Early “English” History (>100BCE-400) • Prior to 100 BCE this island was inhabited by the Briton (native tribes), Celtic, and Pict tribes. • 55 BCE – Roman invasion (JC) – fully conquered by 43 BCE – area called the Britannia Province. Britons, Celts, and Picts pushed west and north • 407 – Roman empire starts to weaken – Britons, Celts, Picts fill the void; however, other invaders sense an opportunity

    3. Anglo-Saxon Invasion • 456 – The Jutes (northern Denmark) invade Kent (southeast Britain) • 476 – Fall of the Roman Empire • 477 – Saxons and Angles (Germanic tribes) invade Britain • By 600 there are 7 kingdoms Britain is divided into: • Jutes: Kent • Saxons: Wessex, Sussex, Essex • Angles: East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria

    4. Anglo-Saxon Britain The Angles start calling Britain “Angle-land” – this eventually becomes “England”

    5. Anglo-Saxon Period (400-1066) • The invasion is immense – roughly 200,000 people flood into a country of about 2 million. The Anglo-Saxons bring their own language and rename much of the country. • In terms of religion, pre-600 the Anglo-Saxons were classified as Germanic Paganism (Woden, Odin, Tiw, Thor). • 600 – Pope Gregory sends St. Augustine to England to convert them to Roman Catholicism. • The town of Canterbury in Kent becomes the religious center – St. Augustine is the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

    6. Anglo-Saxon Period • The language of the Anglo-Saxons is Old English • Here are the first few lines of Beowulf in Old English:

    7. Anglo-Saxon Traits • Loyalty to king/Loyalty to clan (Comitatus) • Hospitality Code • Warrior culture / BRAVERY/Courage • Differing worth of individuals in society (young men the best) • Wanted the scops to sing your song • Fame is good / Boasting is good • Over-the-top compliments show respect • No afterlife • Fate

    8. Anglo-Saxons Vs. Vikings • 789-1002 – Anglo-Saxons subjected to Viking attacks – many were hit-and-run raids, but some resulted in a more permanent settlements. • This served to bring some unity to the Angles and Saxons – Alfred known as a unifying King (886) • Alfred the Great • Unites England • English is the main language (not Latin) • Clips – Horrible Histories

    9. Anglo-Saxons Vs. Vikings • Anglo-Saxon and Viking Kings until… • 1066 – Battle of Hastings – end of the Anglo-Saxon period • Invasion by William, Duke of Normandy • Holla! King Arthur’s coming back • {more on this later…)

    10. Beowulf: An overview • Earliest major work of English poetry • Based on events in 6th century Scandinavia (southern Sweden and Denmark) • Shared orally by scops in Anglo-Saxon Old English • Written down between the 8th and 11th centuries by English monks.

    11. Beowulf: Religious Influence • Germanic tribes (Anglo-Saxon) – pagan (500’s) • Odin/Woden • Tale told orally by scops • Scop offered the closest thing to an afterlife • Probably written and preserved by a monk (700’s-1000’s) • Christian influence • Thanks?

    12. EPIC: long poem Invocation (address the muse) “Listen” Repetitions and Catalogues Stock phrases/Epithets Supernatural Intervention Affects the whole nation Epic Boasting Legendary hero Beowulf = Epic Poem

    13. Beowulf: Poetics • Alliteration: Repetition of stressed sounds – particularly consonants from the beginning of words or syllables. Hwæt! We Gardena         in geardagum, þeodcyninga,         þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas         ellen fremedon. Oft Scyld Scefing         sceaþena þreatum, monegum mægþum,         meodosetla ofteah, egsode eorlas.         Syððan ærest wearð feasceaft funden,         he þæs frofre gebad, weox under wolcnum,         weorðmyndum þah, oðþæt him æghwylc         þara ymbsittendra

    14. Beowulf: Poetics • Compounding: The combining of two words to make a new word. (baseball, folktale, spacesuit) Hwæt! We Gardena         in geardagum, þeodcyninga,         þrym gefrunon, Gardena (gar = spear, dena = Danes) = Spear-Danes Other examples from Beowulf include mead-benches, boy-child, and hall-troops

    15. Beowulf: Poetics • Kenning: Special form of compounding that is metaphoric in meaning. The name Beowulf itself is a compound of beo (bee) and wulf (hunter), creating the kenning Bee-wolf, a metaphorical description of a bear. ofer hronrad         hyran scolde, gomban gyldan.         þæt wæs god cyning! • hronrad is a compound of hron (whale) and rad (road). The “whale’s road” is a metaphor for the sea, therefore it is a kenning.

    16. Beowulf in modern culture

    17. Short Timeline of Early English History: Normans • 1066: William, Duke of Normandy (descendants of Vikings invading France in 9th Century) claims Edward’s throne due to reputed promise and family ties– wins throne at Battle of Hastings • Over next 5 years: William suppresses Anglo- Saxon nobility, spreading feudalism • 1154: Norman rule ends when Henry, Count of Anjou, establishes House of Plantagenet

    18. Short Timeline of Early English History: Plantagenets, Lancasters, Yorks, Oh My • 1170: Four of Henry II’s knights kill Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, because of a disagreement between Henry and Thomas. Henry atones by making pilgrimage to Henry’s tomb at Canterbury • 1215: King John signs Magna Carta to ease strife with barons over raised taxes- first English constitutional gov’t • 1399: House of Lancaster replaces House of Plantagenet (Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI) • 1455-1485: War of the Roses- Lancaster v. York • War ends when Yorkist Henry VII defeats Richard the III and marries Richard’s niece, uniting the two families • 14th Century- Feudalism on the decline

    19. Sources • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Schama, Simon. A History of Britain. Hyperion, New York: 2000.