OriginsUnknown author;possibly one Christianauthor in Anglo-Saxon EnglandUnknown date ofcomposition (roughly8th-11th Century CE)
Literary Devices Allusion: Biblical, Germanic oral tradition, Norse myth and legend, historical Anglo- Saxon kings (eg. King Offa of Mercia) Alliteration (eg. Scyld’s strong son) Epic poetry: a long narrative poem written in elevated style which celebrates the deeds of a legendary hero or god. Kenning: two-word metaphorical name for something (eg. whale-road=sea) Scop: Anglo-Saxon composers and storytellers (like minstrels or bards)
Warrior Code Comitatus: Germanic code of loyalty Thane: warrior – swears loyalty to the king for whom they fought and whom they protected Kings: generous, protected thanes Reputation: thanes were expected to be loyal, brave, courageous; kings were expected to be generous and hospitable Wergild: “man-payment”; a fee paid to the family of a slain man to atone for his murder and to prevent the family from seeking revenge.
Geats and Danes Beowulf was a war leader of the Geats, a group of people in what is now southern Sweden Hrothgar was king of the Danes
Old English Beowulf was written in Old English, an early form of English Old English was spoken in the Middle Ages from about 6th century to 11th century CE In 1066, William the Conqueror successfully invaded England, bringing his Norman French language with him; the nobility began to speak French, and gradually Old English evolved into Middle English (1100-1500): “Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote/The droghte of March hath perced to the roote” Modern English has been spoken since the Renaissance – Shakespeare is NOT Old English; he is Early Modern English
Elements of an Epic1. Epic hero– an character with a trait or characteristic that is valued by his society. • (E.g.– Superman’s bravery or valor)2. Quest– A journey through which the character or the reader learns something3. Valorous Deeds– Doing something bravely.4. Divine Intervention– The hand of God (or gods) help the hero, proving his value.5. Great events– The hero has a hand in something important in the history or mythology of a culture.
2 Types of Epics1. Folk – Told out loud first (usually by scops) – Unknown author – Unknown dates – (E.g.—Beowulf is a folk epic because we don’t know who wrote it)2. Literary – Known author – (E.g.– Paradise Lost, by John Milton is a literary epic because we know who wrote it.)
3 Epic Conventions1. Invoke a muse – Muse– inspiration provided by the gods2. Plot begins in medias res – In medias red– “In the middle of” the action3. Serious tone• Not necessary to have all on these, but need most at least
Possible OER• Evaluate a story you’ve read or seen as an epic story. – O! Brother, Where Art Thou? • Epic hero– Ulysses Everett McGill • Quest– To seek the treasure • Valorous deeds– Singing the song, escaping the sheriff, saving Tommy from the KKK, et al. • Divine intervention– the flood • Great events– Helping elect Pappy O’Daniel as governor of Mississippi instead of the KKK head dragon • Literary epic– Cohen brothers wrote it in 2001 • Invokes a muse at the beginning • Begins in the middle of the story as they escape jail • Serious tone? Notsomuch.
Beowulf’s Name• Beowulf’s father– Edgetho – In most cases, the son is named after the father • Don • Donald (son of Don) • McDonald (son of son of Don) • McDonaldson (son of son of son of Don)• Proves Beowulf is own individual with own powers and abilities (and more important than his father)• Beo– Bear – Bears are known as Great Protectors in Norse mythology – Strong• Wulf– Wolf – Wolves are also great protectors, but are also cunning and speedy
Characters• Beowulf – The protagonist of the epic – His boasts and encounters reveal him to be the strongest, ablest warrior of the era. – In his youth, he personifies all of the best values of the heroic culture. In his old age, he proves a wise and effective ruler.
Characters • King Hrothgar – King of the Danes. Hrothgar enjoys military success and prosperity until Grendel terrorizes his realm. – He is a father figure to Beowulf and a model for the kind of king that Beowulf becomes.
Characters• Grendel – A demon descended from Cain, Grendel preys on Hrothgars warriors in the kings mead-hall, Heorot.
Characters • Grendel’s Mother – An unnamed swamp- hag, Grendels mother has fewer human qualities than Grendel, but her terrorization of Heorot is because of revenge —a human motivation.
Characters• The Dragon – An ancient, powerful serpent, the dragon guards a horde of treasure in a hidden mound. Beowulfs fight with the dragon constitutes the third and final part of the epic.
Characters • Wiglaf – A young kinsman and retainer of Beowulf who helps him in the fight against the dragon while the other warriors run away.
Characters• Halfdane – The father of Hrothgar, Heorogar, Halga, and an unnamed daughter who married a king of the Swedes, Halfdane succeeded Beow as ruler of the Danes• Wealhtheow – Hrothgars wife, the gracious Queen of the Danes.• Unferth – A Danish warrior who is jealous of Beowulf, Unferth is unable or unwilling to fight Grendel, thus proving himself inferior to Beowulf.