Beowulf is an epic An epic is a long poem about a larger than life hero. Characteristics of an epic: A loyal hero with great strength. Broad setting which includes upper and lower worlds. The hero does great deeds or goes on long journeys. Supernatural beings are involved. Poetic language. Epic Hero Characteristics of the Epic Hero: Super strong – a man of stature or nobility (but still mortal) Reflects the values or heroic ideals of his society Extremely loyal to his leader and people. Brave and courageous. Victorious in battle – never gives up Selflessly fights evil to rid society of danger. Has a god-fashioned weapon Receives help from the gods Is glorified by the people he saves Why is Beowulf Special? • Oldest surviving epic in British Literature. • Written in Old English between 700750. • Depicts life in Anglo-Saxon times. Beowulf, The Manuscript • Story passed down through oral tradition. • Was later written down by two scribes. • Dates back to 1000 CE. • Exists in a single Anglo-Saxon manuscript. • A fire in 1731 damaged it. • First translated into Latin in 1815. • Translated into Modern English in 1837. • The British Library in London now owns it. A peek at Old English N:\My documents\Department Documents\English IV\1st six weeks - anglo-saxon, Beowulf\Beowulf\Beowulf Prologue in Old English.mht What is Old English? It is also called Anglo-Saxon. It is a mixture of Celtic, Roman and AngloSaxon. It was spoken for a period of 700 years – from Anglo-Saxon invasion (5th century) until 1066 when the Normans invaded. It has Germanic origin; eg, compare the modern Good day to Old English’s “Gódne dæg” and to the German’s “Guten Tag.” The Anglo-Saxon folk tale originated from oral tradition, sung by a harpist-bard for kings and their guests in great halls to entertain and to encourage the values of the tribe: 1. Honoring courage over long life. 2. Enjoying feasting, storytelling, and music. 3.Viewing life fatalistically, even within the Christian tradition. 4. Admiring physical strength more than mental acuity. 5. Valuing loyalty to the lord or king The Setting • The story is set in 6th Century Scandinavia. • It has a historical perspective, recording the culture and beliefs of the period. • Beowulf’s kingdom would have been what is now Southern Sweden North Sea Baltic Sea The Story Beowulf tackles three enemies: He fights and kills the monster Grendel. He fights and kills Grendel’s mother. He fights and kills the Dragon Recurring Themes The importance of establishing identity (family lineage.) Loyalty to one’s king and people is paramount Heroic deeds are rewarded – Fame can be achieved Good vs. Evil. – When humans remain loyal and sacrifice for those in need, even though it may be painful, good will triumph over evil. Code of Ethics A code of conduct that called for a close allegiance between a leader and his followers. Loyalty and bravery were rewarded with treasure and armor. One’s rich armor was viewed as a symbol of one’s success and bravery in battle. Literary Devices in Beowulf Alliteration - repetition of initial consonant sounds in neighboring words: eg, sweet smell of success, a dime a dozen, jump for joy. – In Beowulf, there are three alliterations in every line: “Now Beowulf bode in the burg of the Scyldings, leader beloved, and long he ruled in fame with all folk since his father had gone…” Literary Devices in Beowulf Kenning - a literary device in which a noun is renamed in a creative way using a compound word or union of two separate words to combine ideas. • Examples: – – – – Whale-road (sea) Ring-giver (king) Battle-friend (arrow) Bone house (body) Literary Devices in Beowulf – Caesura: rhythm created by pauses. Usually in the first half of a line there will be two alliterated sounds and then a pause, followed by another alliterated sound. Ex: 5:218 “And then, in the morning, this meadhall glittering/” … and finally • We have epic poems to: – record and chronicle one’s heroic deeds. – preserve history. – achieve immortality. – reward courage and loyalty. – entertain and flatter.