Notes Template - The Citadel, The Military College of South ...

Notes Template - The Citadel, The Military College of South ...

Beowulf I. Historical background 400-600 A.D. -- Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invade (Beowulf set) 410 A.D. Rome renounces control of Britain 521 A.D. Hygelac invades the Netherlands 597 A.D. St. Augustine 625 A.D. Sutton Hoo 700-950 A.D. -- Christian

poet composed the poem II. The manuscript Handwritten by a monk around 1000 A.D. Written in Old English Obtained by Sir Robert Cotton Bound in Cotton Vitellius A.15. Damaged in fire in 1731 Currently at British Museum Available on The Electronic Beowulf CD

III. Poetic form and devices Alliterative verse Same initial consonants Line halved by caesura Four stresses per line Kenning: compressed metaphor Litotes: ironic understatement Synecdoche: part for whole Metonomy: associated word

for word itself IV. Anglo-Saxon values Loyalty Fighting for ones king Avenging ones kinsmen Keeping ones word Generosity -- gifts symbolize bonds Brotherly love -- not romantic love Heroism Physical strength Skill and resourcefulness in battle Courage

Public reputation, not private conscience V. Beowulf vocabulary Comitatus: Germanic warrior band (Tacitus) Scop: poet in oral culture (shaper) Preserves history Entertains court Spreads heros fame Thane (thegn): warrior retainer Wergild: man-price Substitute for violence

(G wont pay; H pays for Bs father; paid for Hondscioh; Hrethel cant get) Wyrd: fate (to the POET = Gods will) VI. The structure of the poem Three fights (Rogers 1955) Grendel Grendels mother The dragon Ring structure (Niles 1983) Individual passages Three main combats

Example Poem as a whole Inside/order vs. outside/chaos Heorot VII. Why the digressions? To show transience of peace, problem of human evil (Wright, Camargo) To lament loss of community (Niles) To introduce Christian perspective to audience,

but not to characters (Osborne) List of digressions VIII. The narrators function Historicizing -- customs change (178 ff., 1195-6, 1797-8, 1955-6, 2773-4) Contemporizing -- mans place in the universe doesnt change (700-702, 1056-8, 1132-4, 1610-11, 2857-9) Commenting on morality we learn from the past (20-25, 1534-6, 2166-9,

2168-9, 2541, 2600-01, 3174-5) Putting humanity in perspective -human knowledge is limited (50-52, 159-63) (Greenfield 1976) IX. What about the women? Women make peace, bearing children who create blood ties Wealtheow unites Danes/Helmings Hildeburh unites Danes/Frisians Freawaru intended to unite

Danes/Heathobards Women pass the cup at the meadhall, cementing social bonds Women lament loss, dont avenge X. What is heroism? Strong will? Valor in battle? Concern for others?

Are the same traits required for a warrior and for a king? XI. Is Beowulf a hero? Does Beowulf act for selfish motives glory? treasure? Does Beowulf act for selfless motives preserving the community? Does Beowulf ever make a raid or start a feud? Does B stand for violence or civilization?

Is Beowulf successful as a warrior? As a king? XII. What is the poets attitude toward the culture? Does the poet celebrate the culture he depicts and mourn its loss? Does he view it as limited and inferior to another alternative, perhaps Christianity?

It affirms vengeance It overvalues glory It depends on a hero References

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