WEEK 2 - Week Two Old English Beowulf: Grendel and...

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Week Two Old English Beowulf: Grendel and Grendel's Mother As mentioned last week, the Middle Ages occurred roughly between the fall of Rome and the beginning of the Renaissance. The Renaissance took place in different European countries at different times, but in England it began around 1485, so in this class, the Middle Ages period is from 500 to 1485 (C.E.--The Common Era). The Roman Catholic church filled the power void left by the fall of the Roman empire: it was the cohesive force behind the Middle Ages, and in many ways, it kept Europe in the "dark." The only people able to read and write were the clergy members of the Church. This is important in relation to Beowulf. We do not know the name of the actual author of the work, but we do know a few things about his identity. First, he knew the Old English language because the work is written in the English vernacular (common language) of the day. Second, because of the interesting meld between paganism (any religion the Christians saw as barbaric or non-Christian) and Christianity, we can assume that the writer was a monk. Also, recognizing the seeming incompatibility of certain religious interruptions in the poem makes the reader ask if the writer inserted them as sermons to subtly correct or teach the listeners about Christianity. There is only one original copy of Beowulf, and it was missplaced for years in a museum. In fact, a fire destroyed a bit of the paper on which the poem had been written, and a few lines, therefore, have been corrupted forever. Anyway, we do not know the exact date of composition, but experts have put its origin as early as the 700s and as late as the 900s. Part of the argument lies in whether the story was passed down orally for many years and then written down or if the writer created everything on his own. Beowulf will not feel like any other work you've ever read before, and that helps to suggest that its origin dates very, very far back in a much more brutal, barbaric past. The poem uses alliteration (the repetition of beginning word sounds, like "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickle peppers") as opposed to meter or rhyme, and this also adds to the unusual "feel" of the poem. My suggestion is that this poem had its origin in an oral tradition, passed down from the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians from a point in time before they arrived in England. Then, the story was written down many years later when England underwent a brief period in the 10th Century where Danish kings took the throne. It would seem obvious that a monk might write down a story to honor the ancestry of the rulers of his land; however, he'd also feel the need
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WEEK 2 - Week Two Old English Beowulf: Grendel and...

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