It also may be helpful for students to be introduced to the Anglo-Saxon tradition of the
This will aid students in
understanding some of the literary devices and other stylistic techniques that appear in
composers and storytellers who traveled from court to court — the entertainers of Anglo-Saxon times.
to know a broad repertoire of tales and no doubt be able to compose tales in tribute to the patrons who financed them,
a possible explanation for the segment about Offa, a historical king of Mercia from 757-796 (83-84).
Students will benefit from learning about the
or Germanic code of loyalty. Thanes, or warriors, swore loyalty
to their king, for whom they fought and whom they protected. In return the king was expected to be generous with gifts
of treasure and land. The king also protected his thanes. Kings were highly praised for their generosity and hospitality.
Warriors were expected to be brave, courageous, and loyal. Their reputation for such qualities was very important, as
evidenced by Beowulf’s description of the swimming match with Brecca (40-41).
Students should be made aware of the Germanic custom of paying
or “man-payment,” the practice of paying a
slain man’s family to atone for the deed and to prevent them from taking revenge against the manslayer.
Before the events in the poem, Hrothgar paid a
to Beowulf’s father. Hence, Beowulf feels
compelled to help Hrothgar in his time of need.
Some students may have trouble keeping track of the different warrior groups. Suggest that they refer to the Genealogies
in the Signet Classic edition (160). It is most important that they remember that Beowulf represents the Geats and that
Hrothgar represents the Danes.
A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classic Edition of