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Beowulf. The Epic. What is Beowulf ?. Epic: a long poem telling a story about a hero and his exploits. Components of an epic: legendary figure actions on a grand scale requiring superhuman courage supernatural forces are involved style is elevated

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beowulf

Beowulf

The Epic

what is beowulf
What is Beowulf?
  • Epic: a long poem telling a story about a hero and his exploits.
  • Components of an epic:
    • legendary figure
    • actions on a grand scale
    • requiring superhuman courage
    • supernatural forces are involved
    • style is elevated
  • Folk Epic: a work that pieces together its story from folk tales transmitted orally for centuries
  • Elegy: a somber poem or song that praises or laments the dead
format and point of view
Format and Point of View
  • 3,182 lines written in vernacular Old English (native language of the author's time and place)
    • Old English: language of the “common people”
    • Latin: the lofty language of “scholars”
  • The author of Beowulf based his tale in part on pagan myths, fables, Scandinavian history, and biblical and Christian history. Thus, Beowulf is a mixture of fiction and fact.
  • The poet tells the tale in omniscient third-person point of view from a Christian perspective.
  • Though describing events taking place in a pagan culture, the poet credits the Christian God and the Christian ethic for the triumph of good over evil.
the time place of beowulf
The Time & Place of Beowulf
  • Beowulf was probably composed between 700 A.D. and 900 A.D. though the events took place hundreds of years earlier.
  • Northumbria: an important Anglo-Saxon kingdom between Scotland on the north and the Humber River on the south.
  • Home to Roman Catholic monks who excelled in learning and literature.

http://strangemaps.files.wordpress.com/2006/11/states21.JPG

telling of the story
Telling of the Story
  • The author of Beowulf did not write the story down. For one to three centuries, it was told orally.
  • In 1000 A.D. two English scribes write down the story
  • This Beowulf manuscript, considered one of the great heirlooms of world literature, is now preserved in the British Library in London.
  • After fire ravaged the library in 1731, the manuscript was rescued by British authorities. However, water damage and burned edges made it difficult to read. 

http://ebeowulf.uky.edu/images/128v-129.jpg?1303236804

the settings of beowulf
The Settings of Beowulf
  • Dark Ages between 500 and 700 A.D.
  • Denmark: Ruled by Hrothgar, on the island of Zealand (present-day Copenhagen, Denmark)
  • Herot: King Hrothgar’s great mead hall where Beowulf confronts a monster that has been terrorizing the Danes
  • The Lake: Home of the monster and his mother. Beowulf goes here to battle the mother
  • Geatland: Beowulf’s home country (present-day Sweden). 50 years later, he battles a dragon here
main characters
Main Characters
  • Beowulf: Illustrious warrior from Geatland. He possesses enormous strength and courageously confronts the monster in hand-to-claw combat.
  • Hrothgar: King of a Danes. He presides at Heorot, a great mead hall being terrorized by a monster.
  • Wealtheow: Hrothgar's wife and queen.
  • Grendel: Monster that terrorizes Heorot. 
  • Grendel's Mother: Monster that retaliates after Beowulf defeats Grendel.
other important characters
Other Important Characters
  • Wiglaf: Beowulf’s friend. He helps him fight the dragon. 
  • Dragon: Monster that goes on a rampage in Geatland.
  • Hygelac: King of the Geatland. He is Beowulf's uncle.
  • Hygd: Hygelac's wife and queen.
  • Heardred: Son of Hygelac.

Ecgtheow: Beowulf's father.

Unferth: Danish warrior who envies Beowulf.

Breca: Childhood friend of Beowulf.

Aeschere: Counselor to Hrothgar.

ScyldScefing: Once King of Denmark and great-grandfather of

Hrothgar. He is referenced in the epic but does not take part in the action.

verse format
Verse Format
  • Beowulf is written in unrhyming verse, without stanzas, with a caesura (pause) in the middle of each line.
  • Caesuras are used to represent the pauses that speakers normally use in everyday speech
  • Thus, each line is divided into two parts. Each part is called a hemistich (HEM e stick), which is half a line of verse. A complete line is called a stich. Each hemistich contains two stressed (accented) syllables and a varying number of unstressed (unaccented) syllables. 
  • Following are the opening three lines of Beowulf in Old English, with the space in the middle representing the caesura:
  • Hwæt! We Gar-Dena         in geardagum,  Lo. we have heard of the glory in days of old þeodcyninga,         þrymgefrunon, of the Spear-Danes, of the kings of the people, huðaæþelingasellenfremedon. how the athelings did deeds of valor. 
structure
Structure
  • Beowulf is divided chronologically into two main sections:
    • Beowulf as a young man
    • Beowulf as an old man (50 years later)
  • Beowulf is divided by action into three main sections:
    • Introduction to characters and Beowulf's conquest of Grendel
    • Beowulf's battle with Grendel's mother
    • Beowulf's battle with the dragon with the help of Wiglaf
writing style
Writing Style
  • The imagery in Beowulf consists mostly of alliteration and metaphor.
  • Many apparent hyperboles describing the feats of Beowulf are not true hyperboles, since what appear to be exaggerations–such as a passage saying Beowulf swam from Sweden to Finland or a passage saying Beowulf had the strength of thirty–were intended to be taken literally.
  • Kennings: Compound expressions, often hyphenated, representing a single noun. A form of metaphor. Examples of kennings are the following:
    • whale-road for sea
    • sea-wood for ship
    • shield-bearer for warrior
    • battle-spoil for treasure
    • ring-nets for chain mail
    • sword-draught for a sword swallowing the blood of an enemy
    • twilight-spoiler for dragon