A TO Z Literary Principles from History of English Literature: Note 75

A Set of 26 Objective Questions & Answers

Anglo-Saxon Period (450 — 1066)


1: Which Roman General conquered England in A.D. 43? When did the Romans go back from England?

Ans: Julius Caesar invaded Britain in 55 b.c. and returned the following year to defeat the native forces. The inhabitants, referred to collectively as Britons, maintained political freedom and paid tribute to Rome for almost a century before the Roman emperor Claudius I initiated the systematic conquest of Britain in ad 43. At the end of the 3rd century, the Roman army began to withdraw from Britain to defend other parts of the Roman Empire. The Romans went back from England in A. D. 410. Celtic culture again became predominant and Roman civilization in Britain rapidly disintegrated. Roman influence virtually disappeared during the Germanic invasions in the 5th and 6th centuries. Thereafter the culture of the Angles and Saxons spread throughout the island.

2: Where did the Saxons come to England from?

Ans: The Saxons came to England from Germany. Saxons are Germanic people who first appear in history after the beginning of the Christian era. The earliest mention of the Saxons is by the Alexandrian mathematician and geographer Ptolemy in the 2nd century ad. In the 5th and 6th centuries, some groups of Saxons invaded Britain, where they were joined by other Germanic peoples, the Angles and the Jutes. At the beginning of the 7th century, the Anglo-Saxon conquest of Britain was practically completed.

3: From which country did St. Augustine come to England? What are his literary contributions?

Ans: St. Augustine came to England from Rome in 597 A D. As a writer, Augustine was prolific, persuasive, and a brilliant stylist. His best-known work is his autobiographical Confessions, Christian apologia The City of God (413-26), Retractions (428), On Free Will (388-95), On Christian Doctrine (397), On Baptism: Against the Donatists (400), On the Trinity (400-16), and On Nature and Grace (415); and Homilies upon several books of the Bible.

4: Which is the year of the Norman Conquest?

Ans: 1066 is the year of the Norman Conquest. It was a turning point in English history. William I, the Conqueror, and his sons gave England vigorous new leadership. Norman feudalism became the basis for redistributing the land among the conquerors, giving England a new French aristocracy and a new social and political structure. England turned away from Scandinavia toward France, an orientation that was to last for 400 years.

5: Which is the oldest English poem?

Ans:  Beowulfis the oldest extant epic poem in English. 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.

6: Which is the year of composition of Beowulf? How many lines of Beowulf do survive?

Ans: Although the date of the poem is unknown, the earliest surviving manuscript is believed to date from the late 10th century. 3,182 lines of Beowulf survive. 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:
“Then came from the moor under misted cliffs /Grendel marching God’s anger he bore ...”

7: How many parts are there in Beowulf? What is the story of Beowulf?     

Ans: There are two parts in Beowulf — the first part dealing with the killing of the monster Grendel and his mother by Beowulf, and the second part dealing with the fight of the aged Beowulf with sea dragon resulting in the death of them both.

Beowulf is the story of the heroic feats of Beowulf the king ‘Geatas’, in two parts. The first part describes how he sails over Denmark to help the Danish king Hrothgar and kills a terrific mere-monster Grendel and his mother. The second part deals with his return to England, his efficient rule for some forty years, the killing of a fire-dragon and his death out of a mortal wound receives in the encounter with it. The poem concludes with the funeral ceremonies in honour of the dead hero.

8: Who was Beowulf? Name the monster Beowulf killed? Whom did Beowulf help?

Ans: Beowulf was a valiant warrior. The monster Beowulf killed is Grendel. Beowulf helped the Danish king Hrothgar by killing the monster Grendel and his mother who were causing havocs in Hrothgar’s country.

9: Give the word which means ‘fate’ in Anglo-Saxon poetry?

Ans: The word which means ‘fate’ in Anglo-Saxon poetry is ‘Wyrd’.

10: Who wrote the “Ecclesiastical History of the English People”?

Ans: Bede wrote the Ecclesiastical History of English People.

11. Who was the first king of England after the Norman Conquest?

Ans: William I became the first king of England after the Norman Conquest.

12: How many names of Anglo-Saxon poets do we get at all?

Ans: We get the names of two Anglo-Saxon poets — Caedmon and Cynewulf— while all other poets remain anonymous.

13: In how many manuscripts is the Anglo-Saxon poetry preserved?

Ans: The Anglo-Saxon poetry is preserved in four manuscripts. The four manuscripts in which the Anglo-Saxon poetry is preserved are the “Beowulf MS (Cotton Vitellius A. XV)”, the Junius MS”, the “Exeter Book”, and the “Vercelli Book”.

14: Who is said to the “the father of English prose”?

Ans: King Alfred is said to be “the father of English prose”.  King Alfred’s prose works were not original compositions. But were translations from different books written by other writers in other languages.

King, Alfred translated five hooks in English prose. The five translations of King Alfred are Pastoral care of Pope Gregory. The History of the World of Orosius, Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, Consolation of Philosophy of Boethius, and the Soliloquies of St. Augustine.

15: Who was King Alfred’s biographer?

Ans: Welsh monk Asser  was King Alfred’s biographer.

16: Who are the earlier prose-writers in Anglo-Saxon period than Alfred?

Ans : Aelfric and Wulfstan are the two other prose—writers in Anglo- Saxon period than Alfred.

17: Name the manuscripts in which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles are written.

Ans: A or Parker MS and E or Laud MS are the name of two manuscripts in which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles are written.

18: Name the elegies of the Anglo-Saxon period. What is the common feature of the Anglo-Saxon elegies? What is the subject-matter of Ruin?

Ans: The Anglo-Saxon elegies are The Wanderer, The Sea-farer, Husband’s Message, The Wife’s Complaint, Deor’s Lament, and The Ruin. A common note of sorrow is there in all the Anglo-Saxon elegies. All of these Old English verse was originally delivered orally, a highly formalized method of transmitting cultural and political history in an illiterate society. The heavy alliteration of the verse, using words that begin with similar sounds, may have made it easier to remember. Heroic themes of honour, valor in battle, and fame among one’s descendants are often featured in these poems, but there is also a sorrowful tradition that focuses on the concept of the exile.

The Ruin expresses the lamentation of the poet to see the desolate and crumpled condition of a big mansion or a big city once looking glorious and formidable.

19: Name the Anglo-Saxon pagan poems which are distinct secular.

20: Which poems are composed by Caedmon?

Ans: The Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, and three shorter poems under title Christ and Satan are the poems composed by Caedmon.

21: Which are the poems definitely known to be written by Caedmon?

Ans : The poems which are definitely known to be written by Caedmon are Juliana, Elene, Christ, and The Fales of the Apostles.

22: Which is the best poem believed to be written by Cynewulf?

Ans: The Dream of the Rood, the finest of all Old English religious poems in its intensity of feeling, is   ascribed to the name of Cynewulf.

23: What is Genesis B?

Airs: Genesis B which beautifully describes the fall of the angels is interpolation into Genesis (written by Caedmon), usually known as Genesis A. This Genesis B seems to be the source of Milton’s Paradise Lost.

24: What is the theme of The Dream of the Rood?

 Ans: The Dream of the Rood which is believed to the written by Cynewulf is undoubtedly the finest of all Old English religious poems. In this unique poem the Rood or the Cross is personified and it appears in a dream to the poet and expresses its remorse on account of the fact that the Christ was crucified on it. It was indeed a great disaster to the entire world that wept on the King’s fall.

25: What are the works of Aelfric?

Ans: Aelfric (950?-1020?), English abbot, writer,  is best known for his Grammar, Moreover the catholic Homilies, the two series of sermons suitable for delivery by priests, the “Lives of the Saints” (which is the third series of the Catholic Homilies), his translations from the Scriptures, and his “colloquy” is of considerable importance to the development of English prose. The Heptateuchus is an abridged translation of the first seven books of the Old Testament; a Latin grammar and glossary, written in English for his students; and the Colloquium, designed to teach pupils to speak Latin correctly.

26: What is Wulfstan’s contribution to English prose?

Ans: Wulfstan wrote many homilies, the most famous piece being the Sermo Lupi ad Anglos.

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert     
        2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature
        4. Microsoft Students’ Encarta
          5. http://www.ugcnetonline.in/previous_question_papers.php