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BEOWULF - LIFE IN SAXON ENGLAND

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BEOWULF

Beowulf is a long epic poem that was probably composed sometime during the 7th century.

It recounts the deeds and legends of Germanic tribes which lived in the Baltic area from where the Anglo-Saxons sailed to invade Britain. The only surviving manuscript of the poem dates from the 10th century and is writ 515g62f ten in Anglo-Saxon.

Beowulf is the nephew of king Hygelac, who rules Sweden. He decides to go to Denmark in order to help the king and to defeat the monster. He orders a vessel, he chooses 14 warriors, the best he has, to go with him to Denmark. Then, the vessel launch.

Hrothgar welcomes Beowulf who offers to defeat Grendel. The half is once more full of laughter and song during the great celebrations to honour Beowulf and the Geats. That night the monster attacks the hall again but Beowulf flights the horrible creature. It is mortally wounded and escapes to its dark cave. The warriors follow Grendel' s footprints to the lake under which it lives and into which it has dived to die. Then they return to Heorot overjoyed at Beowulf's victory.

Grendel' s mother is determined to avenge her son but is killed by Beowulf who follows her into her cave. Beowulf and his Geats return to their own land. He succeeds to the Kingdom of the Geats where he reigns for 50 years. One day a dragon starts devastating the country and Beowulf sets out to meet it. He kills the dragon but is mortally wounded and dies. His body is burnt on a pyre with his armour and treasure.

LIFE IN SAXON ENGLAND

King Hrothgar built a great mead-hall. The thane (lord) and his followers, the values and customs of society they lived in. Anglo Saxon society was based on a military aristocracy. The unit was the clan which was bound (link) by loyalty to the thane or lord. In their turn, the lords were closely tied to the king. The were expected to accompany him, to live in the hall and to fight and die for him. Aristocratic life was communal and centred on the great hall.

Mead-hall: the place where communal life took place in this period.

THE ANGLO-SAXON WORLD: THE VISUAL ARTS AND LITERATURE

The king was buried in a ship with his armour, weapons and many treasures. The weapons, the gold and jewelled ornaments are fine examples of the gifts the Anglo-Saxon king used to give out to his followers- the "good king" was often described as "gift-over".

THE POET AND POETRY OF BEOWULF

Beowulf is a long epic poem, written in Anglo-Saxon or Old English. The written version dates from the 10th century, but the poem was composed much earlier, probably in the 7th century.

The professional poet or "scop" had a very important role in Anglo-Saxon society.

Anglo-Saxon poetry was oral.







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