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Transcript of Beowulf
Age of Feudalsim
Anglo-Saxon Time Period
-- Vikings were known as masters of the seas and were respected and feared pirates
• Beowolf is comprised of recurring and repetitive events
• Human community is framed by nature
• Pagan and Christian influences together
• Pagan influence of fate‡affects Beowolf in his fight with Grendel’s mother
• Ragnorok pagan idea: Beowolf is fighting for god
o Fused with Christianity‡man is not controlled by fate, but by God
o Ragnorok means the end of the world
o Beowolf kills Grendel’s mother because of this idea
• Red cross represents fusion between Pagan influence of vengeance and Christian cross
• Change from Paganism to Christianity
• Now, the conversion of a king instead of the people
• Danes suffer under Grendel’s rule‡turn to heathen gods for help
o Beowolf focuses on the journey of Beowolf, not his people
o Society struggles with its identity
o Offerings to idols and hope that the killer of souls would come to their aid
o Christian way of speaking makes them seem more innocent
ß Contrast to their strange beliefs
• Pagan customs are evident‡cremation of Hnaef and Beowolf
• Concepts of wyrd and vengeance
o fate often saves the undoomed man when his courage is good
Setting is 5th century: St. Augustine wrote
City of God
and trd turn people away from paganism, reprimanding the human desire for material wealth and success.
Main Christian elements in Beowulf:
1. Men survives only by the protection of God
After his battle with Grendel's mother: "The fight would have ended straightaway if God had not guarded me."
When seeing the great weapon hanging on the wall before battling Grendel's mother: "But the Wielder of Men granted me that I should see hanging on the wall a […] great sword."
2. All earthly gifts flow from God
When talking about King Heremod, "he turned away from the joys of men […] although mighty God had raised him in power, in the joys of strength, had set him up over all men."
3. Men should be humble and unselfish
Hrothgar mentions to Beowulf of the lessons of Greek tragedians: "pride, untempered by humility, will result in a tragic flaw" and "wealth, accumulated by the grace of God, must be shared unselfishly."
Beowulf contains many contradictions to these beliefs. His prideful characteristics clash with the wisdom and humility that he holds. Despite the seemingly disastrous combination, these opposing qualities make Beowulf a heroic warrior as he was able to defeat the dragons. He's able to balance the scale of pride and humility, presenting himself with both favorable and likeable qualities. In doing so, he becomes a mix of two ideals: the "heroic warrior of the pagans and the humble selfless servant of the Christians." Despite the luck and fame Beowulf's confidence brought him throughout the story, the values of Christianity finally caught up as it was his pride that led to his indirectly death.
- There were three classes of Vikings
o The elite: had great economic power
o Farmers: had right to bear arms
o Slaves: had no rights at all
- Women also had power; controlled society while husbands were overseas
- Native to Scandinavia, but travelled all over the world, including North America
- Also settled many places in Russia and the Baltic states
Feudal System- where Kings gave land grants (fiefs) to their Lords in exchange for loyalty and military service. The Lords gave serfs/peasants their land in exchange for manual labor.
- A bard is an oral storyteller or poet
Freemen/Yeomen (an attendant in a noble's household)
- They kept alive the memories of the society through spoken word
- Bards often had to be trained at rigorous Bardic colleges, where they had to accumulate
- They were more literate than most people in this preliterate society
Notes on Beowulf
- History was preserved by bards
- The two illiterate tribes that inhabited England at the time (Anglos and Saxon) were the ancestors of the English culture and language
- Many characters such as Hrothgar, Hrothulf,
and Hygelac were real people
- Christianity was an important part of society
- All the monsters in this were depicted as evil
- Beowulf is depicted as a brave hero, who sacrifices himself for his country
sang about gods and epic heroes
valued as highly as warriors and farmers
bards from Anglo-saxon culture
main character in an epic
same heroic values and ideals as in Anglo-Saxon society
physical strength and ethical standards
ex: Arthur, Beowulf
A pause separating phrases within lines of poetry
important for creating poetic rhythm
fracture with separate parts that are also linked together
dramatic pause with strong impact
Ex: "An Essay on Man" by Alexander Pope
Know then thyself //, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of Mankind // is Man.
In Beowulf: "...Burns like a torch. No one knows its bottom"
The period in the middle of the line separates the ideas, creating a dramatic pause
The Castle was the highest point in the estate, where the noble's lived. Knights' home were spread out across the land because of the flat land and in case of an attack.
Civilization views Grendel as a grotesque monster and outcasts him to a swamp.
The monster displays some guidance by human-like emotion such as loneliness and jealousy.
Grendel's mother is much more fearful and vicious
Critics have read into his ambiguous nature since publication.
by John Gardner grants one perspective of personal history not evident in
prince of the Geats
fighting with fate on his side
"mighty protector of men"
kills Grendel and his mother
king of the Geats
fighting with fate against him
defeated by the dragon
fame and glory
-Seafaring tribe from Southern Sweden
A young kingsman who adheres strictly to the heroic code.
He is the retainer of Beowulf and is the only one who helps him fight the dragon while the other warriors run away.
He is a pure reflection of young Beowulf as he is a warrior who not only is courageous and loyal, but also valiant and fearless.
His bravery provides a glint of optimism for the end of the story.
Heorot is a mead-hall, described as the "foremost of halls under heaven" which is a symbol of power for Kings. It is a place that works as a palace, a dining hall, a storage room for the King's riches, and barracks for warriors - a symbol of the "intense life of formality, excess, and brutal warfare that medieval warriors led." Heorot means "Hall of the Hart."
The irony comes through the name of the mead-hall. While a stag is a proud and majestic creature, it is also a prey animal, being hunter by other predators. This unfortunate name hints at the inevitable attack by Grendel on Heorot.
kind of Spear Danes
too weak to fend off Grendel from his kingdom
was a strong and noble fighter in the past
gifts many to his loyal supporters and followers
like a guardian to Beowulf
older character with more wisdom
Beowulf is his protege
he plays a major role in Beowulf's turning point in Beowulf's development as a person
Serfs lived in low-elevated areas near the farms. In case of an attack, they would be the first to die.
Anglo-Saxon refers to the German settlers that made their way to England after the fall of the Roman Empire in 410 AD
conventional poetic phrase used for the usual name of a person/thing
"wave traveler" for boat
"bone house" for body
"storm of sword" for battle
Beowulf = "Prince of Weders," "The Son of Ecgtheow," "The Geatish hero," "The Lord of the Seamen"
Significance of Beowulf's last fight with the dragon and meaning of hoarded treasure:
Hoarded treasure is a symbol of spiritual death or damnation. It is appropriate that Beowulf is awarded the hoarded treasures after his last fight which eventually leads to his downfall. Treasure in this context is tragic because of its traditional association with death, yet heroic for it is gained in victory.
The Dragon is described
as a "terrible stranger," a "fire-drake," and repeatedly as a "creature." Beowulf finds it menacing, yet in accentuating its fearfulness, the Dragon also appears powerful. Because it is Beowulf's final foe and each kills the other, the dragon symbolizes inevitable mortality. Th dragon is death for it is feared by all, and confrontation with it does terminate life.
The epic closes on a somber note of mourning
. Beowulf knows that he will die, and says that he is "sated with battle" and regrets that he has no son. Rather than relishing in his heroic victory, he asks for the treasure to be retrieved. This adds material purpose to his presence beyond the simple triumph of a hero. The final scene is Beowulf's burial, appropriately somber for the passing of a hero.
There are many common universal themes reflected in Beowulf such as:
Good Vs. Evil: Beowulf Vs. Grendel
Search for identity
Mythical creatures or monsters
Fate of the entire race
Beowulf exemplifies major Anglo-Saxon ideals such as the Heroic Code. The Heroic Code expects warriors to be show strength, courage, and loyalty. While it asks the Kings to show generosity and hospitality.
Time period is between AD 410 and AD 1066
-Beowulf was the leader of the Geats
concept of inevitability
links the future to the past
past is unchangeable, and therefore current circumstances are beyond alteration
In Beowulf, characters describe themselves as "fated" (having a wyrd) that requires them to act certain way
Ex: In Beowulf, it's Beowulf's wyrd to help King Hrothgar, not b/c abstract destiny, but b/c Hrothgar helped Beowulf's father in the past and Beowulf's duty is to return favor
-Main responsibility of a Geat was to remain faithful to the king
-Often gathered at mead-halls to eat and drink after battle
-Had strong identity; Beowulf shares in this
pattern of sound that includes repetition of consonant sounds
Ex: "The Hall of the Heart," "His pledge and promise," "Dragging the dead men home to his den"
Instead of one kingdom, there were many: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Wessex (only one to survive the Viking invasions)
The era came to an end soon after the death of Edward the Confessor. Harold Godwinson was crowned but failed to defend the crown when William of Normandy and an invading army attempted to claim it. Harold was defeated at the Battle of Hastings.
Peasant families worked mainly worked on the farm.
Men wore tights with tunics, while the women usually wore long dresses made from woolen cloth
Common occupations were blacksmiths, shoemakers, woodworkers, potters, and jewelers
A common weapon was a spear connected to an ash shaft and an iron head. Only the nobles used swords.
Some of the common entertainment were chess, horse races, and listening to the harp, which was also used in church music.
O flower of warriors, beware of that trap.
Choose, dear Beowulf, the better part,
eternal rewards. Do not give way to pride.
For a brief while your strength is in bloom
but it fades quickly; and soon there will follow
illness or the sword to lay you low,
or a sudden fire or surge of water
or jabbing blade or javelin from the air
or repellent age. Your piercing eye
will dim and darken; and death will arrive,
dear warrior, to sweep you away.
challenges Beowulf's honor and reveals subtleties in warrior's heroic code
jealous of Beowulf's attention
feels shame because he cannot protect Heorot himself
teaches reader to not be bitter or disparaging
gives gift to Beowulf to fight Grendel's mother
not heroic status
This passage shows how Christian morals are pushed onto the pagan world. Hrogthar tells Beowulf not to give away to pride and to hold out to "eternal reward" which is a purely Christian belief.
Anglo-Saxons were originally pagans that worshiped wild animals, blood, and emphasized pride and glory in battle.
The Christian church influenced the Pagan Anglo-Saxon churches in two directions: The Celtic church and the Roman Catholic church.
The Celtic church was loosely organized and based on monastic life.
The Roman Church was more disciplined and structured.
adjective, marked by firm determination
adjective, intensely emotional
adjective, not liable to error or failure
verb, roll or fold up
adjective, sumptuously rich, elaborate, or luxurious.
verb, to attack vigorously or violently, to assault, to undertake with the purpose of mastering.
adjective, praised highly, eulogized.
PLOT AND CHARACTERS
And a young prince must be prudent like that,
giving freely while his father lives
so that afterwards in age when fighting starts
steadfast companions will stand by him
and hold the line. Behaviour that’s admired
is the path to power among people everywhere.
By: Rachel, Emmy, Lucy, Samuel,
Malvika, Thrisha, Monica, Swathi
The following passage shows the Anglo-Saxon belief in the Heroic Code. There is diplomatic structure. There is a give and take involved between the ruler and ruled which is accepted by the warrior culture.