Teacher’s Guide to Beowulf
To prepare the student:
Epics are “culture bearers.” From Meyer Reinhold, “Greek and Roman Classics,” 1971, New York:
An epic is derived from the Greek Word “epos” meaning word, saying, speech. It distinguishes recited verse from sung poetry (lyric) and acted poetry (drama).
An epic poem is a long narrative poem, written in a dignified style on a majestic theme, relating the exploits of a national hero at the beginnings of a people’s legendary past.
- Review the features of oral epic poetry from Homer’s Greek saga, then add new features for Beowulf (an Icelandic saga). Listed below:
- Review the peoples discussed in Beowulf, the Geats, Swedes, and Danes, including locating them on a map.
- University of Oxford – Podcasts
- Introduce the idea from Beowulf that every time something happy occurs, it is undercut by something unhappy. Discuss examples and invite the student to contribute examples.
- Introduce the idea that present deeds become story almost immediately. It becomes, how to weave what you just did into the historical stories of great men from the past. After Beowulf kills Grendel, the celebration in the mead hall includes a singer that is already singing about it.
- Introduce alliteration, kennings. A great resource on these and other literary devices in Beowulf for both student and teacher:
- The Literature Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained. London: Kingdom Random House, 2016. Print.
- Beowulf’s characters
- Beowulf’s themes
- Beowulf’s lesson
- Beowulf study questions