OLD ENGLISH LITERATURE: Key Points to Remember of Anglo-Saxon Epic Poem BEOWULF

Mainly it was oral Period.
Themes were mostly battles, natural disasters, religion, hard daily life and monsters etc.

Important Notes:
  • Beowulf, an Anglo-Saxon epic poem, the most important work of Old English literature . Although the date of the poem is unknown, the earliest surviving manuscript is believed to date from the late 10th century. The manuscript, written in the West Saxon dialect, is in the British Library in London. On the basis of this text, Beowulf is generally considered to be the work of an anonymous 8th-century Anglian poet who fused Scandinavian history and pagan mythology with Christian elements.
  •  The poem consists of 3182 lines, each line with four accents marked by alliteration and divided into two parts by a caesura .The structure of the typical Beowulf line comes through in modern translation, for example:

Robert Zemeckis’s Annimated film -Beowulf
Grendel’s vengeful mother
Then came from the moor  under misted cliffs
Grendel marching  God's anger he bore ...

  • The somber story is told in vigorous, picturesque language, with heavy use of metaphor; a famous example is the term “whale-road” for sea. The poem tells of a hero, a Scandinavian prince named Beowulf, who rids the Danes of the monster Grendel, half man and half fiend, and Grendel's mother, who comes that evening to avenge Grendel's death. Fifty years later Beowulf, now king of his native land, fights a dragon who has devastated his people. Both Beowulf and the dragon are mortally wounded in the fight. The poem ends with Beowulf's funeral as his mourners chant his epitaph.

  • Easy to remember: Alliteration and Kenning (NOTE! Beowulf wasn’t rhymed!)
  • Old Heroic Epic Poem.
  • It was an oral story.
  • Beowulf is a mixture of Christianity, Paganism and Mystics.

Main characters:
Beowulf (Gaet warrior from Gaetland)
Grendel (monster, living in a cave and eating King Hrothgar’s people)

Grendel’s vengeful mother
King Hrothgar (Danish king, whose people attacked by Grendel)

NOTES: Kenning: Special way of naming things (swan road = sea, bone house – human body)
Alliteration: Use of the same consonant sounds at the beginning of each word following each other. (Dusk Demands Daylight)

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