British and World Literature
Cultural Significance in Beowulf and it’s Time Period
1) Beowulf had a significant amount of history revealed throughout the text allowing the reader to imagine the cultural life style back in the seventh through tenth centuries. a) BackgroundBefore the British lived in Britain, the Celts had settled in Britain. Around 55BC, The Romans deiced to begin and attack Britain. The invasion was successful around A.D. 43 when the Romans managed to take over small islands where they established settlements. Over the next 400 years, Britain became apart of the Roman Empire. The Romans Then the Romans had to withdraw. The Roman regression had begun as many Germanic tribes took over Britain. The invasion began during the mid 5th century and ended around 1485 with the conclusion of the wars of the Roses. The Germanic people spread out from the common Germanic area during the first half of the Pre-Roman age. North Western groups settled in Europe. Some groups include Danish, Dutch, English, Finland-Swedes, Flemish, Germans, Icelanders, and Norwegians. The tribes came from the Netherlands, Denmark, Northern Germany, and Southern Sweden to invade Britain. All these Germanic tribes, although separated, shared a closely related life style and culture meaning things such as languages customs and tribal organization. However they lack the ability or inclination to form a larger more permanent political confederation even though they were fully capable of sporadic cooperation during military campaigns as shown in Beowulf between the Geats and the Swedes. The Germanic tribe established a dominant culture when they invaded and settled in Britain. There were social obligations as well as social traditions that kept order in the Germanic tribes and established a dominant culture. Thus began the Middle Ages. Originating within the Northern region in Europe, the Germanic people are an ethno-linguistic group also known as “Teutonic” and used Indo-European Germanic languages. During the Early Middle Ages, Germanic tribes had settled from their migration period and made a series of movements out of Scandinavia taking place during the Viking Age. The Viking age Norsemen split into an “old east Norse” and “old west Norse” group. Later separating more once again. In Great Britain, Germanic people mixed into the Anglo-Saxon or English people between the seventh and tenth century. b) Funerals and Kings Germanic Tribes had Kings who played an important role in fighting wars, keeping peace, and looking out for the welfare of the people in the tribe. A kings' destiny was to gain dignity and respect throughout his realm. He achieved this through various ways, such as through battle, through bringing peace into the city, town, or countryside, and keeping company of thanes. The king was bound to uphold ancestral law as well as new laws. There were royal standards that everyone had to abide by. This is true even during the death of a king. Horothgar engaged in battle and “The fortunes of war favored Horothgar. Friends and Kinsmen flocked to his ranks, young followers a force that grew to be a mighty army.” (Beowulf 64-67) By engaging and winning in battle Horothgar was fulfilling his position as king that he inherited. The funeral custom for a king was very extravagant. The opening of Beowulf gives a very poetic and accurate description of the custom used during a king’s funeral. Shield Sheafson was the previous beloved king in Beowulf that the people put in a boat filled with jewelry. “They stretched their beloved lord in his boat, laid out by the most, amidships the great ring-giver. Far-fetched treasures were piled upon him, and precious gear.” c) Halls and Family Life
i) The depiction of hall building in Beowulf was also very accurately depicted. Kings built halls during prosperous times. The troops felt joy when they had a feast in the lord’s hall, just as...
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