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Transcript of Beowulf
410 AD the Roman Empire crumbles
People from the German regions of Angeln and Saxony as well as Jutes and the Frisians from Denmark settle in the British Isles.
Anglo-Saxon era starts for the next 600 hundred years
597 AD Saint Augustine arrives in the British Isles and converts most of the people to Christianity.
This is why there are Germanic as well as Christian references in the poem.
9th century the British Isles consisted of four main kingdoms Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex.
Wessex was the only kingdom to survive the Viking invasions.
Eric Bloodaxe, the Viking ruler of York, was killed by the Wessex army in 954.
England was then untied by under one ruler King Edred.
1000 AD a rich flowering in Literature and Learning
1066 AD Anglo-Saxon rule came to an end after the death of Edward the Confessor who had no heir.
The kingdom was soon invaded by King William from France and a new age was started.
The Creation of the Epic
521 C.E. – The approximate year that Hygelac dies, according to a work by Saint Gregory of Tours.
This implies that the events of Beowulf occurred within 6th century Scandinavia.
600-1000 C.E. – The story was likely shared orally, since the language in the text is outdated even when it is first written.
Around 1000 C.E. – A manuscript was written by an unknown poet in England.
Paganism and Christianity
Anglo-Saxon Societal Structure
The story of Beowulf began its development at a time in which Christianity did not yet exist.
The characters within the text, as well as those that initially told the story, are known to have been Pagan.
When the epic was written down in the 11th century, Christian beliefs were incorporated into the text by the poet.
This creates a conflict of ideals in the text and therefore an uncomfortable blending of religion.
Top to bottom class structure
The ruler of the land commonly had a blood line to a previous king.
Large land owners, could move about the kingdom un impaired
Main body of society, the lower group of freemen.
Worked as crafts man or servants, little to no civil rights.
Relationship Between the Warrior and King
Characteristics of Beowulf
Fights 3 monsters: Grendel, Grendel's Mother, and a dragon
Abnormal strength, and courageous
Prince of Geats
When he makes a vow he keeps his word
Reluctant to back down from battle
Willing to risk his life for his ideals
has traits of being the perfect hero
two separate phases-youth and age(old)
The battles are mostly one on one
The relationship is a reciprocal, the warrior provides service and is loyal to his lord or king. The king then offers the warrior protection and distributes wealth in the form of rings to ensure that the warrior remains loyal to him.
The lord or King can be known as the “giver of rings” which usually consists of an arm band or neck torque given to a warrior or warriors for outstanding service or deeds.
The Importance of Halls
Out of the 30,000 lines of literature left from the Anglo-Saxon period, almost 4,000 lines are preserved in the text of
Seamus Heaney's translation uses an old-english form of poetry consisting of two half-lines, each containing two beats.
Grotesque giant monster/man
Spawn of Cain- said to be "god-cursed"
Exiled to swamplands outside of society
Greedy and grim
Anger comes from jealousy and loneliness
Shows human emotions
Likes to create havoc at the Mead-Hall
Around ll. 796 talks about how no human blade can kill him
"First the hero wrestles with a dreadful monster who bites through his victim's bones, drinks his blood, and swallows his flesh in great chunks consuming him 'hand and foot'."
Julia Rofe, Kaila Lorincz, Nathan Esch, Cameron Helme, Connor MacDonald
Monstrous hell-bride, brooded on wrongs
Forced down into fearful, cold waters
Opposite of what the culture values in woman
Women are peace keepers, and she is clearly the opposite
Tries to avenges her son's death
Harder to defeat than Grendel was
Within Beowulf the main hall referenced is Heorot, the hall of Hrothgar.
"The hall is a place of communal gatherings and feasting, of goodwill and social bonds, where oaths are sworn and golden rings are distributed, where heroic deeds are sung and the genealogies of the kings are recounted."
The hall acts as the center of the community, where the lord or king resides.
It is the most secure and stable environment that a warrior can possibly inhabit and the culture’s greatest point on vulnerability.
Burns the Geats' homes and land after a thief sneaks in and steals from it
Known as "hordweard," or guardian of the hoard.
Able to spew venomous fire which burns and poisons his victim simultaneously.
The swords and weaponry helped tie the warriors in the present to those in the past.
Kings dispersed weapons and rings to create bonds with other people through material objects.
These weapons are described as heirlooms in the text, they had a dual function for waging war and as a symbol of continuity linking the past and the present and the future.
For example, Wealhtheow gives Beowulf a golden collar and Hrothgar later gives him armor. Beowulf takes these gifts to Hygelac and Hygd which binds the Geats and the Danes together, showing the loyalty these two people's now have for one another.
Swords and Weaponry and Rings
What human quality does each monster portray?
Is Beowulf an ideal king and hero? What are his motives? Compare this with the main character in the other epics we have read.
What is the importance of the hall of Heorot and Grendel attacking it?
What role does religion play?
Depending on social status, they were warriors and land owners, and could attend legal assemblies.
Considerable freedom in law and practice, were responsible for managing household. They commonly embroidered and weaved, and could own land, jewelery, clothing.
"The Anglo-Saxons." BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2015.
"The History Behind Beowulf." The History of Beowulf. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2015.
“Beowulf.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 3rd Ed. Puchner, Martin. New York:
W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2013. 885-891. Print.
"Evil Twins? The Role of the Monsters in Beowulf". Alexander M. Bruce. N.p., 10 Jan. 2007. Web. 18 Oct. 2015