Early British Literature Notes

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Old English. Circa 500A.D.
Beowulf:
First version=Codex Cotton Vitelliusfire, so passed down orally Lacunae=holes from moths
First word of poem is Hwaet=O.E. for a greeting: hey, listen up! Whale’s way=the sea
Comitatus=latin=duty of follower to hand everything won to the king who then distributes the wealth based on merit Grendel=large, condemned by God; descendant of Cain, “one against all,” wont pay Wergild=price paid to family of the enemy you killed in battle; a matter of honor. Witan=council of experienced warriors who chose next king by merit. Palimpsest=piece of writing that has been written in more than one direction, overlapping. Thane=armed follower of king, noble.

Wealhtheow=wife’s name, stong mother and protector against Grendel’s mother but also similar to her. Characters:
King Hrothgar=king of Danes, he built Heorot=a great mead-hall Beowulf=son of Ecgtheow, offers to fight Grendel, killing him by tearing one of his arms off which is hung in Heorot as a trophy. Grendel’s mother= seeks revenge, Beowulf kills her too in her under water lair. Hygelac=king of Geatland, killed in war against Shylfings and Beowulf becomes king of the Geats

Middle English. Circa 1100 A.D.
Literature: chivalric romances
Canterbury Tales by: Geoffrey Chaucer
Represented an emerging “middle class,” late medieval, wrote so it was accessable to middle class. Characters:
Knight=heroic figure, traveled a lot, undefeated, BUT, not a great horse and stained clothes=sir bullshit? Squire=son of knight, musical and stylish, likes staying up all night with ladies Yeoman=well equipped hunter/forester

Nun-Prioress=Madame Eglantine, awful accent in French and a nasal voice, eats like a vaccum, small dogs, worldy tastes and social pretensionnot very nunly. Monk=doesn’t follow poverty vow—hunts with good equipment and disagrees with “old fashion” rules Friar=Hubert=hears confessions with easy penance for money, finds husbands for girls he gets pregnant to avoid scandal...
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