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Anglo saxon period and poetry
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Anglo saxon period and poetry


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  • 1. Anglo-Saxon Period and Poetry 449 – 1066 A.D.
  • 2. Beowulf
    • Written in old English
    • Oldest epic narrative in any modern European tongue
    • Unknown authorship
    • Unsure of the precise date of composition, but may date from the early 8 th century
  • 3. Beowulf’s Creation
    • Composed in the oral poetic tradition , but whether it was originally written or oral is not known
    • Composed by a single Christian author for a Christian audience in Anglo-Saxon England
    • Gives an excellent understanding of the spirit and embodiment of heroic epic tradition
  • 4. History of the Period
    • Native Celts originally inhabited the island
    • Romans inhabited England for 300 years
    • Made slow progress with roads
    • Celts and Romans continued side by side
    • Celts had no written language
    • The first to write their tales were the Anglo-Saxons
    • Romans withdrew about 400 A.D.
  • 5. Hadrian’s Wall 117km long 5m high
  • 6. History of Period (cont’d)
    • Period begins when first Jutes (Denmark), the Angles (hookmen), and the Saxons (swordsmen) came in waves
    • Celts were driven to Wales and Ireland
    • Ends with the Norman invasion in 1066
    • Anglo-Saxons were hardy and athletic, wandering and seafaring tribes, semi barbarous and pagan
    • Also faithful, earnest, brave, and liked action and fighting
  • 7. How Did Anglo-Saxons Live?
    • After a hunt or battle, the followers of a chieftain or king would meet in the mead hall or banquet room of the chieftain’s living quarters
  • 8. Mead Hall
    • In many villages, this was the central place where the men would gather to argue the ways to meet a crisis or deal with a situation in the village
    • Hrothgar’s was called Heorot or Hall of Horns
  • 9. Mead Hall (cont’d)
    • Men would gather at the tables to eat and drink mead (alcoholic beverage made with malt and honey)
    • Chieftain and scop (village poet) sat at one end of the hall
    • Hall was a long hall, possibly a whole building, with a long trench down the middle in which fires were built
    • Long tables were set on either side of the trench
  • 10. Scops
    • Regaled warriors with tales of deed of bravery and heroism accompanied usually by a small hand-held harp
  • 11. Government
    • Decisions for a village were usually done at “town meeting” or “folkmoots”, where every able-bodied man had a say
    • Might elect a war chief, but even a King was elected by the village males
    • King was selected for his family connections as well as his abilities
    • He would gather followers about him (thanes) to whom he gave protection and allegiance
    • Thanes in turn watched over farmlands and collected taxes
  • 12. Christianity
    • Christianity came to England in 597 when Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory to share the faith
    • Founded the 1 st church in Canterbury
    • Became the 1 st Archbishop of Canterbury
  • 13. So what next . . .
    • We will read a poem about Beowulf, an epic English hero, and his struggles with 3 monsters: Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and a fire-breathing dragon.