Beowulf Notes - Beowulf 1 Beowulf Notes Norton Introduction...

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Beowulf Notes Norton Introduction Notes - Oldest of the great long poems written in English - Composed between second half of eighth century and tenth century - Written in Mercian dialect, but extant copy transcribed in to West Saxon - Poet reviving heroic language, style, and pagan world of ancient Germanic oral poetry, performed by scop (ex: Hrothgar’s scop performing in Heorot) - Though English in language and origin, poem deals with Germanic heroic society of the Danes and Geats, probably from the middle of the fifth century after Anglo-Saxon migration had begun, but before it was finished - Elliptical references to legend and quasi-historical material suggests audience familiarity with such stories - Work of a single, Christian poet that reflects well-established Christian tradition (arguable since no mention of Christ or New Testament; more Judaic than Christian): creation myth (87-98); Grendel as descendant of Cain; allusions to God’s judgment but not to other pagan deities; laments Danish heathenism - General Characteristics of Germanic Heroic Society : 1. Most important relationship was between the warrior (thane) and his king (or lord) a. Based more on mutual trust and respect than on subordination of one man’s will to another. b. Thane as sworn voluntary companion, prideful of his role as defender and warrior, rather than servant. c. Lord was expected to care for thanes and reward them richly for service; good kings are characterized as “ring-givers” as well as “helmet” and “shield” of his people. 2. Kin relationships also important 3. Wergild (man-price, or code of vengeance, p. 25) – more significant as proof that kinsman had done right than as monetary compensation; no legal code or law enforcement body, so justice was meted by kin-groups; failure to do so was shameful (Hrothgar’s shame at his inability to protect or avenge his men, p. 3, 15; Beowulf’s insult of Unferth p.11) 4. Often centered around blood-feuds and tribal wars - Characteristics of Beowulf 1. Ironic treatment of tragic futility of blood-feuds (Finn fragment; story of Hildeburh’s marriage to Frisian king Finn, loses brother and son when fight breaks out in Finn’s Hall, 1069-1157; Heathobard/Dane war and
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Beowulf Notes - Beowulf 1 Beowulf Notes Norton Introduction...

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