Beowulf ØWhy Beowulf? ØProvenance ØSetting ØPoetic devices ØTerms ØThemes
Why Study Beowulf? 1. Beowulf is the oldest poem in the English language, so everything written since Beowulf stems from it in some way 2. The story of Beowulf encompasses common themes that we still see in English literature today 3. Beowulf is simply good writing
Why Study Beowulf? 4. In some ways, it doesn’t matter what you read, but how you read it, so…since Beowulf came first, you might as well start there. 5. Studying Old English improves your understanding of modern English 6. It’s a great story
Setting: Beowulf’s time and place Europe today Insert: Time of Beowulf
The Poetry in Beowulf A few things to watch out for 1. Alliterative verse a. Repetition of initial sounds of words (occurs in every line) b. Generally, four feet/beats per line c. A caesura, or pause, between beats two and four d. No rhyme
The Poetry in Beowulf A few things to watch out for There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes, A wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes. The terror of the hall-troops had come far.
The Poetry in Beowulf A few things to watch out for Alliterative verse – an example from Beowulf: Oft Scyld Scefing sceapena praetum, Monegum maegpum meodo-setla ofteah; Egsode Eorle, syddan aerest weard.
The Poetry in Beowulf A few things to watch out for 2. Kennings a. Compound metaphor (usually two words) b. Most were probably used over and over For instance: hronade literally means “whaleroad, ” but can be translated as “sea”
The Poetry in Beowulf A few things to watch out for Other kennings from Beowulf: banhus = “bone-house” = body goldwine gumena = “gold-friend of men” = generous prince beaga brytta = “ring-giver” = lord beadoleoma = “flashing light” = sword
The Poetry in Beowulf A few things to watch out for 3. Litotes § A negative expression; usually an understatement § Example: Hildeburh had no cause to praise the Jutes In this example, Hildeburh’s brother has just been killed by the Jutes. This is a poetic way of telling us she hated the Jutes absolutely.
Anglo-Saxon Riddles • I'm by nature solitary, scarred by spear and wounded by sword, weary of battle. A shield I frequently see the face of war, and fight hateful enemies; yet I hold no hope of help being brought to me in the battle, before I'm eventually done to death. In the stronghold of the city sharp-edged swords, skillfully forged in the flame by smiths bite deeply into me. I can but await a more fearsome encounter; it is not for me to discover in the city any of those doctors who heal grievous wounds with roots and herbs. The scars from sword wounds gape wider and wider death blows are dealt me by day and by night.
• I'm told a certain object grows in the corner, rises and expands, throws up a crust. A proud wife carried off that boneless wonder, the daughter of a king covered that swollen thing with a cloth. Bread/Dough
• On earth there's a warrior of curious origin. He's created, gleaming, by two dumb creatures for the benefit of men. Foe bears him against foe to inflict harm. Women often fetter him, strong as he is. If maidens and men care for him with due consideration and feed him frequently, he'll faithfully obey them and serve them well. Men succour him for the warmth he offers in return; but this warrior will savage anyone who permits him to become too proud. Fire
Now it’s your turn: • You are to write a riddle using the same format as the Anglo-Saxons. – A minimum of 12 lines – Anglo-Saxon poetic elements (kennings, alliteration, metaphor)* at least 2* – Describes a common object – Uses consistent line length – Employs wit You have 10 minutes to work in class. The final product is due Monday Sept. 10
Some terms you’ll want to know scop A bard or story-teller. The scop was responsible for praising deeds of past heroes, for recording history, and for providing entertainment
Some terms you’ll want to know comitatus Literally, this means “escort” or “comrade” This term identifies the concept of warriors and lords mutually pledging their loyalty to one another
Some terms you’ll want to know thane A warrior mead-hall The large hall where the lord and his warriors slept, ate, held ceremonies, etc.
Some terms you’ll want to know wyrd Fate. This idea crops up a lot in the poem, while at the same time there are Christian references to God’s will.
Some terms you’ll want to know epic Beowulf is an epic poem. This means it has a largerthan life hero and the conflict is of universal importance. There’s a certain serious that accompanies most epics.
Some terms you’ll want to know elegy An elegy is a poem that is sad or mournful. The adjective is elegiac. homily A homily is a written sermon or section of the poem that gives direct advice.
Themes and Important Aspects Good vs. Evil Religion: Christian and Pagan influences The importance of wealth and treasure The importance of the sea and sailing The sanctity of the home Fate Loyalty and allegiance Heroism and heroic deeds