long heroic poems which recount legendary or historical narratives of national importance.
The English language from the middle of the fifth to the beginning of the twelfth century. Also called Anglo-Saxon.
(Note: for studying Beowulf, you only need the Old English part of this definition. For studying for all the three medieval texts, you'll be using this full definition). The medieval period began with the barbarian tribes entering Britain after the Roman empire withdrew, culminating in the Anglo-Saxon dominance from fifth century to 1066 with the Norman invasion when French language and culture gained precedence and started mixing with local cultures. The oldest tales (like Beowulf) are oral, later transcribed into Old English. With the dominance of the Normans, the language shifted into Middle English in twelfth century. Medieval values—Anglo Saxons: comitatus (group-oriented, loyalty to lord, importance of largesse of the lord, boasting to cement individual goals in communal compact), no psychological mindset, purely mythical expressed as the forces of society warring against the forces of anarchy. Middle English—a melding of Christian and pagan beliefs, unwittingly mixed, but the dominance of the church is clear. A mythical mindset is still in evidence with Gawain, but it moves into a more political mindset with Wife of Bath. Complexity of social relations increases as shown in the complexity of the tests through which Gawain must proceed and in the complexity of the punishment and redemption of the knight in Chaucer.
illustrates traits, performs deeds, and exemplifies certain morals that are valued by the society from which the epic originates. They usually embody cultural and religious beliefs of the people.
Three main tribes, including the Jutes, were known as the main invaders of the British Isles which were ruled by Rome. They were Germanic peoples who invaded England in the fifth century A.D. to wrest it from the hands of the Romans, who were in the process of withdrawing from Britain. They formed enduring institutions and cultural and religious traditions that remained an important part of English society even after their ultimate defeat by William the Conqueror in 1066. The two main tribes consolidated.
Reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief, as in philosophy or religion, especially when success is partial or the result is heterogeneous. In other words, the pagan belief system remained strong despite an overlay of newer Christian beliefs. What we would consider irreconcilable differences, they would accept as normal.
An Old English poet or bard, a period of oral tale-telling, not literacy.
A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in "a sea of troubles" or "All the world's a stage" (Shakespeare).
A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated, as in the use of Washington for the United States government or of the sword for military power.
ironic understatement, another apparent favorite trope of the Anglo-Saxons in which the affirmative is expressed by the negation of its contrary. "Not easily did I come through it with my life."
A figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole (as hand for sailor), the whole for a part (as the law for police officer), the specific for the general (as cutthroat for assassin), the general for the specific (as thief for pickpocket), or the material for the thing made from it (as steel for sword). (The adjective form of this word is synecdochic, synecdotal, or synecdochical. It doesn't use the plural "s").
A freeman granted land by the king in return for military service in Anglo-Saxon England. Synonym: vassal
the idea that everyone protects the king at all costs even if it means a warrior giving up his own life. If a king is killed, the warriors must avenge the death of the king or they can no longer serve as warriors for the next king.
A term used to characterize a person or thing, such as rosy-fingered in rosy-fingered dawn or the Great in Catherine the Great. In Beowulf, Epithets were useful for alliteration, so God could be called "Weard" (guardian) or "Meatod" (measurer) or "Wuldor-Fæder" (glory-father) or "Drihten" (lord) or "Scyppend" (creator) or "Frea" (master), etc. A king could be a "ring-giver" or a "noble lord" or a "righteous guardian." A phrase replaces a simpler name.
poetic phrases consisting of compound metaphors. The sea could be called "the swan's road" or "the whale's way." As mentioned above, women were "cup-bearers" or "peace-weavers."
a turning inward, inside out, or other reversal of the normal relationships or objects. In Beowulf, Grendel's mother's battle-hall is an inversion of the Anglo Saxon battle hall. It's similar but all the values are turned upside down. Also, Grendel's war on the Danes is an inversion of the rules of warfare. He doesn't seek peace, offers no truce, accepts no settlement, and doesn't pay reparations (lines 69-73).