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From «Beowulf» to Caxton

Studies in Medieval Languages and Literature, Texts and Manuscripts

Series:

Tomonori Matsushita, A.V.C. Schmidt and David J. Wallace

Senshu University has hosted many international conferences on medieval English literature – primarily on Geoffrey Chaucer and William Langland – as well as in the related fields of Old Germanic, medieval French and Renaissance Italian literature. These international collaborations inform and contribute to the present volume, which addresses the heritage bequeathed to medieval English language and literature by the classical world.
This volume explores the development of medieval English literature in light of contact with Germanic and Old Norse cultures, on the one hand, and Romance languages, on the other. The book includes a comparative study of Beowulf in the Germanic context, discusses aspects of Piers Plowman and its tradition, and offers philological approaches to Chaucer (especially his Troilus and Criseyde). The articles assembled here collectively suggest how the torches of classical learning were carried from continental Europe to illuminate the pages of medieval English literature.

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Kazutomo Karasawa - 2. Hrothgar in the Germanic Context of Beowulf -29

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Kazutomo Karasawa 2 Hrothgar in the Germanic Context of Beowulf 1 2.0. Introduction The so-called Unferth Intermezzo (ll. 499–661) and Hrothgar’s Sermon (1700–84) are two scenes in the first half of Beowulf so impressive as often to be referred to by their own titles. This is why each has been examined fairly closely and a great variety of readings has been suggested. However, they have rarely been discussed together as two interrelated elements of the poem. They are related in that they both have their settings in the Danish court featuring the two major characters representing it: Unferth and Hrothgar, respectively. It is true that they are depicted quite dif ferently. Hrothgar is a benign, wise and old king, as seen ref lected in his ‘sermon’, whereas Unferth is rather aggressive and seemingly malignant, as is espe- cially the case with the f lyting he urges against Beowulf. As I shall argue in the first section, however, it is most reasonable to consider that in the Unferth episode, they are not antagonistic in nature but represent funda- mentally the same ethos. Otherwise, it is hard to imagine how wise and benign Hrothgar can trust openly malignant Unferth as a very important retainer. Hrothgar is often viewed as a (quasi-)Christian character, and his ‘sermon’ is often interpreted from this perspective as a homily on avarice and pride in Christian terms. As we shall see in the second section, however, the context of the sermon itself suggests that it...

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