The Anglo-Saxon Period (449-1066 A.D.) Anglo-Saxon England & Beowulf QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. Historic Overview First Germanic invasion- In 449 A.D., the jutes (from the peninsula of Jutland in Denmark) Additional Germanic Invasions- the Angles & Saxons (from Southern Denmark and along the coast) Historic Overview Cont. Anglo-Saxon England (“Angleland”) was established by these Germanic Tribes – Important Commonalities • Common Language- early English • Heroic Ideals- Courage, loyalty, valor, courtesy, generosity, of ruler and followers • Family Unit- The family unit formed the structure of society: Family-> Clan-> Tribe-> Kingdom. • Democratic Councils- Meetings and assemblies of open discussion • Art- high regard for beauty & fine ornamentation (Sutton Hoo artifacts) Sutton Hoo Artifacts Historic Overview Cont. – Lack of Unity- The tribes divided into 7 major kingdoms • North- Angles (East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria) • South and East- Jutes (Kent) • West- Saxons (Sussex, Essex, and Wessex) Historic Overview Cont. “Angleland” lasted until 1066, when the Normans invaded (Norman Conquest, led by William the Conqueror) Religion Pagan Beliefs of the Anglo-Saxons – Strong belief in fate (wyrd) - impersonal, irresistible force that determined most of life – Gods of the Anglo-Saxons were those of the Norse culture – Great admiration for heroic warriors- Human will and courage allowed individuals to control their own response to fate – No afterlife – Life’s Goal- Win fame and lasting glory in order to obtain immortality and became a model for others to follow Religion Cont. Influence of Christianity in England – First Archbishop in England- St. Augustine (597 A.D.), Roman missionary (brought 40 missionaries with him to England) – Unity- the spread of Christianity served as a unifying force throughout “Angleland” – Literacy- Christianity “brought” literacy with it; runic alphabet was replaced with Roman alphabet; monasteries became places of learning and education. Education Venerable Bede (673735), Father of English History”- Monk known for his great scholarship and learning; wrote History of the English Church and People; contemporary of the author of Beowulf Education Cont. Alfred the Great (849-899)- Patron of the scholars and educators; held a strong belief in education. He new Latin and encouraged young men learn to read and write; had books translated into English. End of the Anglo-Saxon period- European rulers would send to England for teachers. English Language Runic Alphabet- Early Anglo-Saxons used runes to scratch inscriptions on ceremonial stones or as a means of identifying valued items; they never saw their alphabet’s potential as a way of communicating thoughts across time. English Language Cont. Anglo-Saxon (Old English) and modern English are members of the Indo-European family of languages Lasting ability and Influence in English – History of language in England: Latin, Danish, Swedish, German, French (to name a few). – After the Norman Conquest, no king of England spoke English for the next 300 years! (1399- Henry IV); Aristocracy spoke French, English became the language of peasants – Despite the constant invasions upon England and the numerous people groups to come and go, English survived! English Language Cont. Present-day Influences of Anglo-SaxonTiw (god of war), Woden (chief Teutonic god), Thor (god of thunder), Frigga (goddess of the home) Literature Oral Tradition- Professional poets (“scops”) were the musicians, storytellers, and historians of their tribes. The scop remembered the kings, heroes, battles, and folklore of the tribe. Heroic Epic Poetry (Beowulf)- Focuses upon bravery of central hero Literature Cont. Elegiac Lyric Poetry (“Seafarer”)- Expresses mourning due to the passing of better times, death, or other losses; dark mood & bleak fatalism are characteristic of Anglo-Saxon times Riddles- Anglo-Saxons enjoyed the playful and intellectual challenge of riddles, which described familiar objects in ways that forced the audience to guess their identity. Kennings (Old English metaphorical descriptions used in poetry) were often used in riddles, which were written in verse. Beowulf Author – Unknown Poet- The poem is probably the work of a single author (consistent style used). – Probably a Christian man who lived in the 8th century & a contemporary of the Venerable Bede. – Familiar with classical and biblical literature; well-educated Beowulf Cont. Composition and Written Manuscript – The poem was probably composed sometime in the 8th century (700-800 A.D.) – Written down around 1100 A.D.- hand copied probably by a monk; written in Old English – Manuscript was preserved in a monastery for hundreds of years until the early 16th century; King Henry VIII ordered the closure of monasteries when the church of England converted to Protestantism; much of the contents of monasteries were destroyed Beowulf Cont. – Robert Cotton- preserved the manuscript in his personal library – 1731- Fire nearly destroyed the manuscript, which was later donated to the British Museum Myth or History?- Within the poem, no distinction is made between myth and history. Beowulf cannot accurately be described as fiction or fact. Dating the manuscript becomes important in determining which elements of Beowulf belong to the history of culture, to this history of myth and legend, to political history, or to the development of the English literary imagination.