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Beowulf

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  1. Beowulf

  2. Beowulf is the first great work of national literature. • Like most heroic literature, Beowulf is oral art. • This epic was composed between 700 and 750, but depicts the world of the early sixth century (500s). Background

  3. Sometimes called a heroic poem, an epic is a long narrative about the adventures of larger-than-life characters. Epic

  4. Alliteration is the repetition of sounds in words close to one another. • Example: • “So Hrothgar’s men lived happy in his hall.” • “A powerful monster, living down” Alliteration

  5. A kenning is a metaphorical compound word or phrase that indicate a person or things by a characteristic or quality. • Example: • Hyphenated compounds: “sky-candle” • Prepositional phrases: “wolf of wounds” • Possessives: “the Geat’s brave prince” Kenning

  6. Enjambmentis the continuation into next line: the continuation of meaning, without pause or break, from one line of poetry to the next • Caesuras are rhythmical pauses; a pause or break within a line of poetry, usually indicated by the natural rhythm of the language. Loud in that hall, the harp’s rejoicing Call and the poet’s clear songs,sung Of the ancient beginnings of us all, recalling The Almighty making the earth, shaping These beautiful plains marked off by oceans, Then proudly setting the sun an moon To glow across the land and light it; Caesura

  7. Grendel • Powerful monster • Lives in darkness, hell • Called a fiend and demon • Descendant of Cain’s cursed line • Hates the music coming from Herot hall • Twosettings • Herot Hall – joyous, happy, celebrating • Grendel’s lair – dark, hellish Part 1

  8. Grendel attacks Herot at night • Kills 30 men and takes their bodies • King Hrothgar & Danes mourn and lament • Grendel continues to attack • Herot remains deserted for 12 years (“twelve winters of grief”) • Grendel will accept no truce or offer reparation for his crimes • Wergild: an Anglo-Saxon who killed someone had to pay a price for his deed or accept the fact that the victim’s relatives would seek revenge • Hrothgar’s warriors flee from Grendel • Hrothgar & his people can think of no remedy for Grendel’s murderous rampage. Part 2

  9. Beowulf hears of Hrothgar’s plight • Decides to travel to Denmark to help • Takes 14 of his bravest warriors • Beowulf • “the strongest of the Geats – greater / And stronger than anyone anywhere in this world – “ • He is the strongest man alive  Part 3

  10. Beowulf arrives at Herot. • He states his qualifications • He has been victorious in battle. • He has killed sea monsters. • He has fought giants (“I drove / Five great giants into chains”) • He requests that Hrothgar allow him, along with his men, to fight Grendel. • He decides to fight without weapons because Grendel uses none. Part 4

  11. Hrothgar reminds Beowulf of his assistance to Edgetho, Beowulf’s father. • Hrothgar states he has lost many men to Grendel’s attacks. • “How many times have my men, glowing / With courage drawn from too many cups / Of ale, sworn to stay after dark / And stem that horror…” • Hrothgar invites Beowulf to a feast in Beowulf’s honor. Part 5

  12. Unferth (one of Hrothgar’s warriors), annoyed with and jealous of Beowulf, calls Beowulf a “boastful fool,” reckless, and proud. • He claims Beowulf’s victories have been the result of nothing but luck. • He recounts a story of a reckless swimming match between Beowulf and Brecca, a match Beowulf lost. • Beowulf sets the record straight. • Unferth is drunk and has no idea what he’s talking about. • Beowulf states he is indeed a better swimmer than Brecca. Part 6

  13. Beowulf might not have won the swimming contest, but he had to battle 9 sea monsters just to survive, something Brecca never had to do. • He states that if Unferth (and the rest of the Danes) were as strong and courageous as Unferththinks, Grendel would never have dared to attack Herot. • “The Geats will show…courage.” • Both Hrothgar and Welthow are pleased with Beowulf’s boats and believe he can defeat Grendel. • Welthow serves the mead, first to Hrothgar and then to the warriors. • Beowulf states that he came to help the people and will “live in greatness and courage” or welcome his death. • Hrothgar grants Beowulf control of Herot and promises Beowulf great treasure in return for killing Grendel. Part 7

  14. Grendel comes to Herot expecting no resistance. • He laughs when he sees so many warriors sleeping. • He kills one Geat warrior, but when he next attacks Beowulf he finds that he has met with a formidable foe. • Beowulf takes hold of Grendel’s claws & does not let go. • Grendel is afraid & wants nothing more than to get away from Beowulf. • Grendel and Beowulf fiercely battle. • The walls of Herot shake, benches rattle and are knocked over, and the Danes are terrified by Grendel’s painful screams. Part 8

  15. Beowulf’s men try to help him fight Grendel; however, they find that swords are useless against the monster. • Grendel “had bewitched all men’s weapons, laid spells / That blunted every man’s blade.” • Beowulf rips off Grendel’s entire arm and hangs it from the rafters in Herot. • Grendel escapes to his lair to die. Part 9

  16. Danes rejoice and sing Beowulf’s praises. • They follow Grendel’s tracks to the edge of a lake. • The water is bloody, boiling, murky, and dark. Part 10

  17. Grendel’s mother attacks Herot, kills Hrothgar’s closest friend, and takes Grendel’s arm. • Hrothgar takes Beowulf to Grendel’s home. • Description of Grendel’s home • Mist steams like black clouds • Lake burns like a torch • Lake is bottomless • Animals fear the lake • Groves of trees keep it dark • Hrothgar asks Beowulf to kill Grendel’s mother. In return, Hrothgar will reward Beowulf with gold and treasure. Part 11

  18. Beowulf dives into the lake, sinking for hours to the bottom. • Beowulf and Grendel’s mother fight. • His mail protects him from her claws. • She takes him to a battle-hall. • Beowulf’s sword fails him – Grendel’s mother’s skin is too evil • Beowulf’s helmet fails him – she bites through it • They wrestle – she pins him & his mail again saves him – this time from her dagger Part 12

  19. Beowulf discovers a heavy sword – made by giants and blessed with their magic – hanging on the wall. • He uses the sword to decapitate Grendel’s mother. • Then Beowulf finds Grendel’s body, cuts off Grendel’s head, & brings this trophy to Hrothgar. Part 13

  20. Beowulf returns home, becomes king, and rules for 50 years. A dragon begins attacking his land, and he decides he must fight this creature to protect his people. He takes 11 warriors with him. • During the battle – • His shield melts – the dragon’s flames are too fierce. • Beowulf knows he’s doomed. • His sword breaks – the dragon’s scales are too strong. • He is losing the battle – “A king, before, but now / A beaten warrior.” • His warriors flee. Part 14

  21. One warrior, Wiglaf, does not run. • He remembers Beowulf’s generosity and runs to help Beowulf in this fight. • He scolds the other warriors for their cowardice. Part 15

  22. Beowulf and Wiglaf kill the dragon, but Beowulf is fatally wounded (the dragon bites his neck). • Wiglaf returns with some of the treasure to show Beowulf. • Beowulf tells Wiglaf to • Lead the people • Build him a tower on the coast so sailors can see it and remember his name. • Beowulf gives Wiglaf his golden necklace, golden helmet, his rings, and his mail shirt. • Then Beowulf dies. Part 16

  23. The Geats bury Beowulf in the tower, along with all the dragon’s treasure. • 12 warriors ride around Beowulf’s tower and sing his praises. Part 17