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Unformatted text preview: Beowulf One Manuscript: 10th c Probable date of Composition: from the collection of Sir Robert Bruce Catton (15711631) (1731: damaged in the fire that destroyed the building) 1st half of 8th c Historical period referred to in poem 6th c Raid on Franks by Hygelac: 520 C.E. Genre Epic (not classical epic) Long narrative poem Elevated language Battle (s) / War Recounts the trials and adventures of a largerthanlife hero Usually, the fate of a nation is dependent on the outcome of battle Celebrates heroic virtues Trip to underworld Supernatural figures (gods) Epic hero: A) Battle or B) Journey Fights against odds--in every situation Makes a `fateful' decision to do so, to test fate Dies Beowulf is also classified as Heroic Poetry because it celebrates the `heroic virtues' Heroic Poetry Celebrates the values and "virtues" needed for war/ the "martial values" Bravery Courage Determination Strength and skill Loyalty Celebrates the exploits of martial hero Epic/Heroic Poetry Past rewritten to: fit the genre create the epic hero. He's "bold," having the quality of ofermod: Battle of Maldon "foolhardy":Beowulf, p. 55 l. 1057 The epic hero needs the quality of "ofermod" or "oferhygd" (swollen with confidence) to be able to win in battle. extol the heroic virtues and values Hero in epic and heroic poetry decides to fight when odds are overwhelmingly against him Now I shall conquer / or die in the deed (p. 60, l. 1317) "Thus should a man / unmindful of life / win lasting renown" (p. 61, l. 1355) Germanic Culture/Heroic Poetry Christianity is assimilated to heroic culture. The following are admirable things in heroic poetry: Immortality: how to get it: Pride (meaning confidence to super/overconfidence) Glory Gifts/treasure Feasting (eating and drinking in the hall) Fame/renown (p. 55) Vengeance (58, l. 1224) Battleboasts (vows) (79, l. 2211) We all must abide an end on this earth, but a warrior's works may win him renown as long as he lives And after life leaves him (p. 59, l. 122526) Issues, Themes in Beowulf Christianity and/vs warrior culture Nature of Evil Structure: `digressions' / interlace Problems in society Story of heroic exploits interrupted by reference to past and future events and people and they're always bad Revenge code Raiding Battle leader as chieftain/king Struggles for power Warrior hero as king Role of the scop (bard) in society Attitude of narrator toward hero and culture Role of women Structure and Narrator Reveal Problems in/ with Society Code of Vengeance Basis of economy: raiding and war Warrior/heroic code itself a problem? Pray to wrong god, not know change (35) Monsters (Grendel and dragon): are they simply incarnations of evil, or are they embodiments of the problems endemic in this warrior culture? Or both? Narrator, p. 35, and other references to God Christian Moments Beowulf thanks God AllWielder, and other battlenames Hrothgar: sermon against pride (p.65) But also asserts that "fate often saves an undoomed man when his courage is good" But what kind of pride? Future/past "digressions": critique by a Christian poet or elegy--or both? 33, 51, 55, 56, 71 Beowulf and the Dragon Did Beowulf do the right thing? Troops' behavior: Grendel vs Dragon Hrothgar's sermon against pride p. 65 Genre: heroic poetry/ an epic Warrior Code: do or die Beowulf and Hrothgar (But what kind of pride is it?) similarities between situations ...
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This note was uploaded on 05/01/2008 for the course ENG 221 taught by Professor Knepper during the Summer '07 term at Clarion.
- Summer '07
- English Literature