Beowulf The Beginning of English Literature A Heroic Epic Epic- a quest story on a grand scale Heroic Epic Poetry - narrative poems that stress the battle between good and evil, superhuman feats of valor, and loyalty to one’s king and leader.
Background • Composed in Old English probably in Northumbria in northeast England sometime between 700-750 • Scenery described is from Northumbria; assumed that poet was Northumbrian monk • Only manuscript available dates from the year 1000; discovered in the 18th century • Depicts a world from the early 6th century • Poem based on early Celtic and Scandinavian folk legends
The Importance of Beowulf • Beowulf: England:: Iliad and Odyssey : Greece • Longest surviving poem that’s written in Old English (First great work of English national literature) • It was written when the Anglo-Saxons were in control in Britain. Remember: After the Norman conquest, Anglo-Saxon literature disappeared. • Consists of the tribal history of the Anglos, Saxons and Jutes • Describes a history of pride, loud talk, drunken violence, spies, raids and bloody battles
That’s interesting . . . . • The Anglo-Saxons were in control of the area that is now Britain until 1066 when the Normans took over. • When the Normans took over, they wanted to oppress the Anglo-Saxons. • One way they did this was through language. • The Normans said that the Anglo-Saxon language was vulgar.
That’s interesting . . . . • The Normans used words like fornicate, defecate, and urinate – the Anglo-Saxon words for the same things were “bad” words. • That is why some words STILL TODAY are considered “bad” words. • Kind of funny that we still follow this tradition today.
Poetic Qualities • Original is 3,000 lines long • Written in unrhymed alliterative lines • 1. Alliteration- the repetition of initial consonant sounds at the beginning of words following each other immediately or at short intervals Examples: sweet smell of success/ a dime a dozen/ bigger and better/ jump for joy Grendelgongan,godes yrre bær; myntesemanscaðamannacynnes
Find examples of alliteration in Burton Raffel’s translation of lines 1-5: Out from the marsh, from the foot of misty Hills and bogs, bearing God’s hatred, Grendel came, hoping to kill Anyone he could trap on this trip to high Herot.
Out fromthemarsh,fromthefootofmisty Hillsandbogs,bearingGod’shatred, Grendelcame, hoping tokill Anyone he could trap on this trip to high Herot.
Literary Devices In Beowulf 2. Allusion-a reference in a literary work to a person, place, or thing in history or another work of literature. Allusions are often indirect or brief references to well-known characters or events. Example: Even Noah would have struggled during Hurricane Katrina.
Literary Devices In Beowulf 3. Kenning- a short description of a thing (noun) used in place of the thing's name (*metaphoric comparison- hyphenated or compound word, prepositional phrase, or possessive) • *Metaphor- comparison between two otherwise dissimilar objects (I hit a homerun on that test.)
Kenning Examples: King- ring-giver Ship- sea-rider Devil- shepherd of evil Examples from Beowulf: gold-shininghall= Herot guardian of crime= Grendel strong-hearted wakeful sleeper= Beowulf cave-guardandsky-borne foe= dragon
Literary Devices In Beowulf 4. Simile- A comparison made between two things using the words “like” or “as.” The comparison must be between two essentially unlike things. Example:He is as fast as lightning.
Literary Devices In Beowulf 5. Imagery- Words or phrases that create pictures or images in the reader's mind. Images can also relate to the other senses. Example: His face turned bright red and he seemed to be holding his breath right before he fumed and charged like an angry bull across the crowded auditorium.
6. Caesura - Beowulf was composed in Old English, which uses caesura. These rhythmic pauses could visibly be seen by gaps in the written line of text. ða com of more under misthleoþum Grendel gongan, godes yrre bær; mynte se manscaða manna cynnes sumne besyrwan in sele þam hean.
Here are the same lines in modern English from Burton Raffel’s translation: Out from the marsh, from the foot of misty Hills and bogs, bearing God’s hatred, Grendel came, hoping to kill Anyone he could trap on this trip to high Herot. • Punctuation reproduces the pause effect of the original caesura.
Anglo-Saxon Ideals • They were warriors and seamen (athletic, strong, seafaring, adventurous) • Extreme loyalty existed between these warriors and their king • Love for glory and fame • Honored the Truth
Overview of Plot • Beowulf is about a hero who becomes the leader of the people • He goes to help the Danish people defeat a monster that is tormenting them • The action is extraordinary and the hero is larger than life.
Characters • People – • Beowulf: nephew of Higlac, king of the Geats • Hrothgar: king of the Danes • Wiglaf: a Geat warrior, one of Beowulf’s select band and the only one to help him in his final fight with the monster, Grendel. • Monsters – • Grendel : man-eating monster who lives at the bottom of a foul mere (mountain lake) • Grendel’s mother: water-witch who seeks revenge • Dragon: giant fire-breathing serpent whom Beowulf fights in Part Two of the epic
Setting • Beowulf takes place in Scandinavia. • The action of the poem takes place around 500. Beowulf was first written down around 700, but it had been told orally for many years before that. • Herot: the golden guest hall built by King Hrothgar where warriors gathered to celebrate. • Scholars think Herot might have been built on the coast of Zealand in Denmark.
Mead-Hall • Warriors gathered in front of their king to drink, boast, tell stories, receive treasures from the king • The scop or bards would sing stories (poems) telling familiar stories for audiences in the communal hall at night. • The hall offered safety but the paranoid sense of doom that runs throughout Beowulf shows the constant fear of invasion from other tribes that plagued the Scandinavian society.
Mead-Hall -symbolized victory in war -like a banquet hall – used for parties and celebrations Mead- a fermented liquor made from honey -----used at banquets and celebrations
The Epic Hero • Beowulf is one of England’s ancient heroes. • Other times and other cultures have had other heroes. King Arthur Joan of Arc
The Epic Hero • In modern America, the hero may be a real person or a fictional character. Can you think of others?
Now Write . . . • Write about a contemporary hero, real or fictional, and the challenges he or she faces. Describe your hero, and then briefly analyze him or her using these questions: • What sort of evil or oppression does your hero confront? • Why does he or she confront evil? What’s the motivation? • For whom does your hero confront evil? • What virtues does your hero represent?
The movies are full of contemporary heroes, including Batman. Batman, also known as Bruce Wayne, must keep his identity hidden while fighting for justice because he is also a millionaire and owner of a large company. His dark persona also helps him create a fear factor. Batman has come up against many different bad guys, all who want to take advantage of the people of Gotham City. Although there is nothing “super” about Batman, he uses his wealth to create technology to help him fight for justice. He is willing to put his life on the line and spend his wealth to protect the average man of Gotham City. Although few people of Gotham know who Batman is, he is a hero who keeps the balance tipped toward good and not evil.