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Beowulf Beowulf Text and Context Background ►

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					 Beowulf
Text and Context
                     Background
►   Composed around 700 A.D.
►   The story had been in circulation as an oral narrative for
    many years before it was written.
►   The action of the poem takes place around 500 AD
►   Poet is reviving the heroic language, style and values and
    pagan values of ancient Germanic oral poetry
►   The poem deals with ancient Germanic forebears, the
    Danes and the Geats
►   Only a single manuscript of the poem survived the Anglo-
    Saxon era. In the 1700’s it was nearly destroyed in a fire
►   It was not until 1936 when the Oxford scholar J.R.R>
    Tolkien published a paper on the poem that is became
    popular.
                  The Beowulf Poet
►   The poet is Christian
►   The poem reflects established
    Christian tradition
►   Allusions to the Old Testament
►   Beowulf is a Redeemer who is
    sent by God to save man from
    sin
►   The price of salvation is life
    itself
►   Correspondences between
    Beowulf’s death and the death
    of Christ
       Heroic Values in Beowulf
► Relationship  between
  king and his warriors
► The king rewards his
  warriors with gifts
► If a kinsman is slain,
  obligation to kill the
  slayer or obtain
  payment (wergeld) in
  compensation
 Conflict Christian Values and Heroic
                 Values
► This tension is at the
  heart of the poem
► Pagan history and
  myth are made to
  point to a Christian
  moral
► Beowulf is poised
  between two value
  systems
       The Character of Beowulf
► He  fights for personal
  honor, but is
  committed to service
  to his own people and
  humanity.
► A superhuman who
  remains recognizable
► Contrast old and
  young Beowulf
► Beowulf as savior
                     Themes
► Good   vs. Evil
► Fate
► The  Importance of
  Establishing Identity
► Tension between
  Heroic Code and
  Christianity
► Significance of
  artifacts
► The past
   Important Elements of the Poem
► Elegaic tone
► Heroic poem
► Contrasts
     Christian and pagan
     Youth and old age
     Rise and fall of nations
     Joy and sorrow
     Fate and God’s will
      Violence
      Irony
                  Sutton Hoo
► Burial site discovered in 1939
► Important links to Anglo-Saxon world and Beowulf
► Remains of a boat were discovered and large
  burial chamber containing numerous artifacts
► Artifacts suggest a distinctly Christian element
  intermingled with pagan ritual.
► Episodes in Beowulf now have tangible
  archaeological violence to add creditability to the
  blend of customs in the text.
Sutton Hook Images
    Suggested Further Reading
► Beowulf, A Verse Translatioin. Trans.
     Seamus Heaney. Ed. Daniel Donaghue.
     Norton Critical Edition. 2002.
► Norton bibliography on Beowulf , p. 2902.
► Websites on Beowulf, Old English poetry,
  and Sutton Hoo.

				
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