Essay on The Mead-hall in the Old English Poem Beowulf

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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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