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Introduction to the Old English Period of British Literature PowerPoint Presentation
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Introduction to the Old English Period of British Literature

Introduction to the Old English Period of British Literature

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Introduction to the Old English Period of British Literature

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  1. (450-1066 A.D.) Introduction to the Old English Period of British Literature

  2. Beowulf • Author Unknown • Epic – a long narrative poem detailing a hero’s deeds.

  3. The Manuscript • Passed down through word of mouth by storytellers known as scops (pronounced she-ops) • Probably recited to harp music • Was written down at 1 point; many mysteries remain surrounding text

  4. The Manuscript • Events in the poem take place between late 5th century & early 7th century • Composed in Old English or Anglo-Saxon • Considered earliest major work of English poetry • A single manuscript exists, now in British Library in London • Caught fire in 1731, left pages burned and brittle

  5. Original Style • 3,000 lines long • Unrhymed, four-beat alliterative lines called alliterative verse • Title added later, no title included in manuscript

  6. Anglo Saxon Society • Lived in tribes • Kings were decided by deeds, not last names • Spoke Old English • Pagans before adopting Christianity • Pagans = strong nature presence; strength of warrior • Anglo Saxons mixed both beliefs – Beowulf contains traces of both beliefs

  7. Anglo Saxon Society • Migration of people from present day Germany to present day England

  8. Anglo Saxon Society • People Living on the British Isles • Picts – Pre-Celtic • Britons – Celtic • Gaels – Celtic • Roman armies conquered the Britons • Romans introduced cities, stone roads, written scholarship, and Christianity. • Romans abandoned Britain

  9. Anglo Saxon Society • Even when they adopted Christianity, they valued heroic ideals and traditional values • Culture valued human contact, family, virtue, and a good story • Valued heroic code over tribal loyalties • Feared humiliation and loneliness • Desired richness, power, and valued heroic actions of warriors

  10. An Overview • Story of noble warrior, Beowulf • Becomes King of Geats • Fights 3 major battles (Grendel, Grendel’s Mother, Dragon) • He travels from Scandinavia (modern day Sweden) to Heorot (in modern day Denmark) • Pronounced “hair-ut”

  11. Heroic Code • Warriors • Strength, courage, loyalty • Kings • Generous to his thanes (warriors) • Show hospitality • Strong political leader • Anyone can become king • Society • A good reputation

  12. Protagonist • Poem's Hero: Beowulf • a mighty warrior from the land of the Geats (modern day Sweden) • arrives in modern day Denmark (home of Spear-danes or “Danes”) • noble, courageous, bold, and stronger by far than any other living mortal

  13. Beowulf Continued • Arrives to build his reputation • Important to Anglo Saxons • When he arrives to Heorot, he has already defeated seamonsters

  14. Antagonists • Grendel • nightmarish creature–half-beast, half-man–that strikes at night • Born with dark heart and dark spirit • Born out of chaos – from the lineage of the biblical Cain (who killed his own brother) • Kings balance out chaos

  15. Antagonists Continued • Grendel's mother • Disgusting creature • Lives in swamp with her son • Fire-breathing dragon • Dragons believed to be former kings who were greedy • Dragon is opposite of good king (ie: Beowulf)

  16. Other Characters • King Hrothgar (Dane) • Hroth = benefit of; gar= spear • Who Beowulf travels to help • Wiglaf (pronounced weeg-lauf) • Wig= war/fight • Young thane originally from Sweden (was a prisoner)– loyal to Beowulf in his last battle • Edgetho (pronounced ej-thoe) • Beowulf’s father who died when he was young

  17. Tribes • Danes • Hrothgar and his thanes • Geats • Beowulf and his men • Wulfing • Tribe Hrothgar made peace with for Beowulf’s father

  18. Themes • Establishing Identity (Family Lineage vs. Individual Reputation) • Good vs. Evil • Strong Warrior vs. Strong King

  19. Translations • Thane = warrior • Mead-hall = built by King Hrothgar. Place for men to gather, eat, drink mead (like beer), and tell stories • Wyrd = fate • Scop (pronounced she-op) = oral storyteller; often to harp music; provided entertainment and education; sang or chanted stories • Hrunting = sword

  20. Beginning the story • Heorot is the mead-hall King Hrothgar built his men after much military success • Enjoyed prosperity there for a long time • Until Grendel, monster who lives in the swamplands just outside Heorot, becomes angered by their celebrations • He has been terrorizing Heorot for 12 years; Hrothgar’s men defenseless against him

  21. Meanwhile.. • Beowulf is well-known hero of Geatland • not far from Denmark – the land of Danes • He heard of the terror Grendel caused • He brought 14 of his bravest men to help • Traveled by sea to Denmark

  22. Characteristic of an Epic Poem & its Hero

  23. Anglo Saxon Literature • Anglo-Saxon poetry used several devices, including: • Metaphors: a comparison without “like” or “as” • Similes: a comparison using “like” or “as” • Alliteration: repetition of the initial consonant sound in a line of poetry • Caesura: a pause in a line of poetry • Repetition • Kennings: a descriptive phrase or compound word that substitutes for one word • Stories were often filled with violence and gore • Most stories were about heroic warriors prevailing in battle • Characters were driven by fate (wyrd) and their courage was tested

  24. Characteristics of Epic Poem • Setting is vast scope, often involving more than 1 nation • Plot is complicated by supernatural beings or events and may involve a long, dangerous journey • Poem reflects timeless values (ex: courage, honor) • Poem treats universal themes (ex: life and death; good and evil) • Major characters often deliver long, serious speeches • What are some examples of present day epics? • Lord of the Rings • Star Wars

  25. Characteristics of Epic Hero • Is of noble of birth or high position; often of great historical or legendary importance • Character traits reflect important ideals of his society • Performs courageous (sometimes superhuman) deeds that reflect the values of the era • Actions of hero often determine the fate of a nation or group of people