The Mead-hall in the Old English Poem Beowulf
What was the function and nature of a mead-hall in the Heroic Age of Beowulf? Was it more than a tavern for the dispensing and consumption of alcoholic beverages, and occasionally precious gifts? Yes, much more.
Remaining true to the Anglo-Saxon culture’s affinity for mead (ale/beer/wine), the characters of Beowulf partake frequently of the strong beverage. And the mead hall was their home away from home, with more entertainments than just fermented beverages: “gold and treasure at huge feasts … the words of the poet, the sounds of the harp.” Needless to say, with “the world’s greatest mead-hall … Hrothgar’s people lived in joy.” “after a mead party the Danes … knew no …show more content…
That was … the greatest of sorrows.” Wiglaf, in censuring the ten who deserted their chief, said, “At the ale-bench he often gave you … helmets and armor.” In this classic poem, can there be anything more vital or essential to joyful living, or to conducting business, than the mead-hall?
T. A. Shippey in “The World of the Poem” (45) says:
Some objects in fact reach “mythic” status – most obviously halls. What the poet thinks about these can be derived most immediately from his run of twenty to thirty compound words for describing them. Halls are for drinking in winehall, beerhall, meadhall; they are filled with people in guesthall, retainer hall; in them worth is recognized in goldhall, gifthall, ringhall. They are also the typical, though not only, setting for festivity and poetry.
“The only archaeological evidence of what Heroic Age royal halls in England were like, comes from the Yeavering in Glendale in present-day Northumberland, where the site of one of the royal townships of the English kings of Northumbria has been identified and investigated” (Arnold 91). The location corresponds to Bernicia, the northernmost Anglo-Saxon kingdom. There archaeologists have uncovered evidence of a complex of seven large structures surrounded by eleven smaller ones - the royal villa mentioned by Bede of a seventh century English king (Cramp 132). Each of four
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As she passes the ruins she recreates the pleasant things that had been there. Despite the reasonable arguments that her goods belonged to God and whatever God does is just, there is in the poem an undercurrent of regret that the loss is not fully compensated for by the hope of the treasure that lies above. (84)
Beowulf’s room of power and glory was reduced to a painful memory. The hall, previously covered in beautiful, vibrant tapestries, now lingers with the haunting image of the dragon’s wrath. Livestock flee from the destruction, horses high pitched whinnies echoed throughout the carnage, pigs squealed, birds shrieked, and cows wailed, helplessly trapped in the scolding pyre; the shrill cries of the livestock slowing subside as the abundant flames grew to a monstrous size. In the distance, the flames creeped into the crops the villagers had worked so hard to produce. The smell of burning wheat and barley filled the air with a reassurance that life would no longer remain in these
In the movie Beowulf, the women are depicted differently than in the poem. The women in Anglo Saxon culture had more power than demonstrated in the movie. For example, the servant in the Mead Hall is clearly objectified. She is wearing a tight dress with her breasts showing, wanting to gain attention from the men. While she is washing the table, she is bending over so her breasts are exposed. All the men are surrounding her and staring. The main reason for the servant being at the Mead Hall is so the workingmen can look at her. The men are only interested in the servant in a sexual way. An example of this is when a working man states, “…No wonder my loins are burning.” He wants his sexual desires to be completed by the servant. He
Beowulf: A New Telling by Robert Nye is about a character named Beowulf who has to fight evil by using strength, but by also using cleverness. Beowulf’s name means “bee hunter” and Beowulf loved bees. In the story a hall is built it is called Hall Heorot. “By day it towered above men’s heads like a second sun, so bright were it’s walls and roofs”(p. 5). Once the hall is made, a monster comes and eats people at night.
Beowulf is an epic tale written over twelve hundred years ago. In the poem, several different female characters are introduced, and each woman possesses detailed and unique characteristics. The women in Beowulf are portrayed as strong individuals, each of whom has a specific role within the poem. Some women are cast as the cup-bearers and gracious hostesses of the mead halls, such as Wealhtheow and Hygd, while others, Grendel's mother, fulfill the role of a monstrous uninvited guest. The woman's role of the time period, author's attitude, and societal expectations for women are evidenced throughout the poem.
As him and his men see the shining reflection of the Danes’ spears, Beowulf feels and interprets the uncertainty they feel, for he is this mysterious man showing up to this island filled with turmoil. As the Geats are reluctantly let in, Beowulf introduces himself and gives detailed backgrounds of his many battles, flaunting his accomplishments and emphasizing his triumphs. In the midst of his storytelling he says, “‘I had a fixed purpose when I put to sea. / As I sat in the boat with my band of men, / I meant to perform to the uttermost / what your people wanted or perish in the attempt / in the fiend’s clutches. And I shall fulfil that purpose, / prove myself with a proud deed / or meet my death here in the mead-hall’” (43).
Beowulf’s first battle is against Grendel in an attempt to help King Hrothgar of Denmark and the Danes. The king builds a great mead-hall known as Heorot, where his warriors can gather to drink, receive gifts from their lord, and listen to stories sung by the bards. All the noise and commotion angers Grendel, who is a horrible demon that lives in the swamplands of the king’s kingdom. Grendel is an outcast who desperately wants to be a part of the Danes. He is bitter about being excluded from the mead-hall festivities. As a result of his jealousy and loneliness, Grendel terrorizes the Danes every night, killing them and defeating their efforts to fight back. The Danes live in fear, danger, and suffer death from Grendel for many, many years. Eventually, word of the kingdom’s suffering at the hands of Grendel reaches Beowulf. He feels inspired by the challenge of defeating the monster and decides to help the Danes. The king holds a big feast to celebrate Beowulf’s help,
Beowulf and Grendel are two different stories, and characters, who look at the same situation in polarized ways. Each character has their own story that is written from different time periods: the Anglo-Saxon time period and America in the 1970’s. Both of these time periods have different attributes that make them special; the Anglo-Saxon time period consists of the literary movement of the epic poem and America in the 1970’s consists of the literary movement known as postmodernism. Beowulf is shaped by the Anglo-Saxon time period through its use of the heroic code and religious influences and Grendel is shaped by the American 1970’s time period through its use of metafiction and an unreliable narrator.
Alcohol has been observed in countless works of literature throughout history. It has been seen a tool of an assailant, the preferred drink of unsavory character, or maybe even a symbol of peace. The versatile concoction has taken many forms, and at times it seems to be specifically praised and at other moments it is just a convenient transition to the next viable part of the narrative. Yet there are some narratives that expose alcohol as an important part of their ceremonies and rituals without calling undue notice to this feature. While glory, fame, and reputation are significant elements to the overall foundation of the Warrior society that is explored within Beowulf, there are other less obvious elements that hold crucial substance as well. The ceremonies such as the feasts, the passing of the beer horn, and gift presentations are saturated with ritual demands that must be observed. This analysis will take a deeper look at the significance of beer drinking that is exposed as a crucial element to the ritual completion during two different moments with the text. The first will be the Feast after Beowulf’s arrival at King Hrothgar’s court and the second will be during the feast as which Freawaru is observed distributing drink and gifts. Could the drink be used as a formality of displaying alliance and safe boarding or could it be a be a way to temper reactions during more emotionally charged moments?
Likewise, the difference was gold. In the book Beowulf was rich. Back in those days when you were pouring with gold you were a good warrior. A good warrior could pay for a good army to win fights. In the book gold was not important, it was about Glory.
In the epic poem, Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, it is said, "Behavior that's admired is the path to power among people" (Beowulf 5). That being stated, it is very apparent throughout the entirety of the story. The main character, Beowulf, quickly comes to a position of power once defeating multiple atrocities and executing numerous heroic deeds. The people in the city admire Beowulf and abide to his ways; but once offered kingship, he declines. Throughout the epic poem, it is obvious that Beowulf would rather be a hero than a king because of the individual representation that comes with it, the rewards, and the self-reliant aspect.
Beowulf is known for displaying the importance of male heroism via Beowulf, but what about the significance of the women in the poem? The significance of women in Beowulf is overshadowed by the great heroism of the character Beowulf, but the women each have a reason for participating in the epic. The ideal woman was someone who was a noble, a mistress and loyal. An ideal woman is described in Maxim I: “at mead drinking she must at all times and places approach the protector of princes first, in front of the companions, quickly pass the first cup to her lord’s hand”. The significance of women in Beuwolf is a minor detail in the epic, but proves to be vital to Beuwolf. The epic of "Beowulf" illustrates three major roles for the women in the society: the hostess, the peacemaker, and the monster. Five women in Beowulf play the major roles throughout the epic: Wealhtheow, Freawaru, Thyrth, Grendel's Mother, and Hildeburh. These women entertain, bring peace, and contradict societal expectations of the female gender, either directly or indirectly.
The story of Beowulf begins with his quest to aid the kind of the Danes. Hrothgar built the great mead-hall called Heorot. The mead-hall represents Hrothgar’s success in building a powerful military and social entity. The mead-hall” Meant to be a wonder of the world forever;” (Beowulf.69-71) a place of light and warmth during the cold winter was attacked by a powerful demon called Grendel. Grendel resented the happiness of his neighbors and attacked Heorot for twelve winters leaving the hall empty for years. Once Beowulf learns of Hrothgar’s problem with Grendel he
Beowulf begins with a history of the great Danish King Scyld (whose funeral is described in the Prologue). King Hrothgar, Scyld's great-grandson, is well loved by his people and successful in war. He builds a lavish hall, called Heorot, to house his vast army, and when the hall is finished, the Danish warriors gather under its roof to celebrate.