Тема: The Old English Literature (Світанок англійської літератури)

Topic: The Old English Literature

Objectives : to inform Ps about the objectives of the course; to get Ps interested in reading in the original; to brush up some facts from the history of the United Kingdom using Ps’ background knowledge;                 to train Ps to do scanning and intensive reading.

Materials : cards with muddled names of writers; sheets of paper with the names of literary  genres; the map of the Anglo – Saxon invasion; text for scanning; text for intensive reading.


Warming up

  1. During our special course dedicated to English literature we are going to speak aboutBritish

   writers and poets and their books. I’m sure a lot of the names of the English authors are well

   known to you. Let’s split into groups of four and try to unscramble  some of the names which are

   muddled. When the name is unscrambled, a representative of the group should write it on  the

  blackboard. / Ps are given packs of cards with the letters  : William Shakespeare, Arthur Conan

  Doyle, Charles Dickens, Joan Rowling /


  1. At our lessons we are going to speak about the main periods of life and creative work of these and many other authors. Now I’d like you to brainstorm in the same groups andtry to predict what objectives our literature is aimed at. List the objectives and then we’ll create a scattergram on the blackboard.

Feedback  on brainstorming

/ When Ps are ready the teacher elicits their answers and writes them down on the blackboard /

Choosing activity

  1. Studying literature we are going to work with texts of various literary forms or genres. Look at the walls of our classroom. You can see sheets of paper with prompts. The names of literary genresare written on them. Choose your favourite genre and take your place under the sheet with its name.
  1. Why do you like this literary form?
  2. Who is your favourite writer?
  3. What is the title of your favourite book?

Scanning of the text

  1. The development of culture of every country is closely connected to the historical events which take place in this country. So beginning our talk about the Old English literature we need to brush up some facts and events from the history of the United Kingdom which influenced the development of the Old English literature. There is a time line on the blackboard with eleven centuries marked on it as the period of the Old English literature lasted from the 5thtill the 11thcentury. Your task is to scan the text and to mark the invasions on the time line. 



The main facts from the history of the United Kingdom

    About 2000 years ago the British Isles were inhabited by the Celts. These tribes came from the continental Europe. The Romans who conquered Great Britain in A. D. 43 called these people Britons and the island  – Britannia. The Roman period of British history lasted 465 years. The Romans built many roads, ports, towns. They brought the skills of reading and writing to the country. Then towards the end of the 4th century Europe was invaded by barbaric tribes. The Romans had to leave Britain because they were needed to defend their own country. Very soon the sea-robbers came sailing in ships from the continent. They were Anglo-Saxon tribes from Germany and Denmark . At the beginning of the 5th century they invaded a great part of Great Britain and England got its name from this invasion ( Angle – lands ). In the 8th century the Vikings arrived from Denmark and Norway. They killed and robbed the population of the towns and villages. Gradually they began settling in Britain. Small Anglo – Saxon kingdoms could not defeat them . In the 9th century they decided to unite their forces in the struggle against the Vikings . Egbert, the king of Wessex, one of the stronger Anglo – Saxon kingdoms, united several neighbouring kingdoms  founding the united kingdom of England. In the 11th century the Normans came to Great Britain from the north of France. The great battle between the English and the Normans took place near the town of Hastings in October 1066. William, the son of the Duke of Normandy , headed the Normans who won the battle. After the battle William was called the Conqueror and became  King of England.


  1. Asour time line shows the Britons inhabited the territory of modern England. To what race did they belong?
  2. They belonged to the Celt race..
  3. What language did they speak?
  4. They spoke the Celtic language.
  5. The Britons believed in different gods. They lived in villages and were governed by the priests called the Druids. In what way did the Roman invasion change the country?

Possible responses based on the material covered during the previous year :

  1. They built towns.
  2. They built roads, bridges, ports.
  3. They built theatres, shops, baths.
  4. They brought Christianity.
  5. They brought their culture.

  1. Our time line shows that the end of the 4thand the beginning of the 5thcenturies were marked with one more invasion. Use the map you have and tell us the names of the tribes and where they came from.                                                
  2. They were the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes and they came from Germany and Denmark.
  3. The Angles , the Saxons, and the Jutes moved in and quickly overpowered the island nation. They spoke four dialects and formed seven kingdoms: Kent, Sussex, Essex, Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia and Northumbria. The tribes fought with one another; nevertheless they became one nation during the centuries, and their language, now called Old English, became the language of the people.

Reading and post-reading activities

  1. Now you are going to read the text about the British society of that time and the first forms of the Old English literature.

Read the text and find the answers to the following questions:

  1. What was the main entertainment for the warriors?
  2. Who performed the earliest British poetry?
  3. How were the poems handed down?
  4. What is the title of the main Old English literary monument?
  5. Who was the author of the poem?
  6. When was it written down?

        II Find in the text the main characteristics of epic poetry and the values of the British society in the 4th century, write them down into your copy-book.


Anglo – Saxon Literature

    Life in the early Middle Ages was dominated by violence and bloody conflicts. In frequent battles, warriors were very loyal to their leaders. Their only form of entertainment consisted of gatherings in mead- halls, large structures where warriors feasted, drank mead ( an alcoholic drink made from honey ), and listened to storytellers about adventures of heroes.

    Since few people read or wrote, literature was passed on orally. There were professional singers called scops ( ‘’bards’’ ) who told stories, usually in poetry form. Those tales were often accompanied by music. The scops sang about wonderful battles and brave warriors. Those songs were handed down to children and grandchildren, and finally reached the times when some people who had learned to write decided to put them down. The stories illustrated the values of the people of that time: great loyalty to kings, obedience to tribal laws, and admiration for strength and cleverness in battle.

    ‘’Beowulf” is an example of such a tale. It is often called the foundation stone of all British poetry. The poem was composed by an unknown author. Many parts were added to it later. Around A.D.1000 the  poem was recorded by two unknown Anglo – Saxon monks about five hundred years after it was originally told. The manuscript can be seen in the British Museum in London but it is impossible  for a non- specialist to read it in the original.

    “Beowulf” is an epic. An epic is a long poem that tells about the adventures of a hero. There are four main characteristics of epic poetry:

  1. The hero is of noble birth or high social position.
  2. The hero reflects values that are important to his society.
  3. The heroes actions consist of courageous, even superhuman deeds.
  4. Supernatural forces are often involved.

    ” Beowulf” tells of times long before the Angles and Saxons came to Britain. There is no mention of England in it. The action takes place in what is now Sweden and Denmark. Little information is available about the historical accuracy of the events described in the poem. Historians have discovered that a real King Higlac, Beowulf’s king and uncle in the poem, fought another medieval clan about A. D. 520 .Whether Beowulf himself actually existed is uncertain, however.


Name the main characteristics of the epic poem.

Summing up and home assignment

Read the text about the plot of ” Beowulf”. Speak about the events described in the text as if you are

Group 1 –one of Hrothgar’s warriors. Describe your king and the palace he has built for you;

Group2 –one of Hrothgar’s warriors. Describe that horrible night when Grendel attacked your palace;

Group 3 – one of Beowulf’s warriors. You saw how Beowulf fought the Water Witch. Describe their fight.

/ the class is divided into three groups and they are given separate tasks/


The plot of the epic

Long, long ago there lived a king of the Danes whose name was Hrothgar. He was brave, just and kind, and the people of Denmark loved him. Together with his warriors he had won many battles and got great wealth.

    Once he decided to build a large palace where he could entertain himself and his warriors after great battles. So he built a wonderful gold-roofed mead-hall. It was decorated with antlers of stags (deer) that’s why it was called Heorot (Stag-hall).In this mead-hall Hrothgar presented costly gifts to his warriors , then they feasted, drank mead  and listened to scops. Those professional singers and poets sang of wonderful battles and brave heroes.  Their tales were accompanied by harp. So Hrothgar’s men lived happily in his hall.

    Not far from the mead-hall there  was a large lake where a fierce sea –monster Grendel lived. He looked like a man but was much bigger, and his whole body was covered with long hair, so thick and tough that no weapon could harm him. As day after day the music rang loud in that mead-hall, Grendel got madly envious of festive noise and decided to destroy Heorot.

    One night when darkness had dropped, the sea-monster went up to Herot, wondering what the warriors would do in the hall when their drinking was done. He found them fast asleep. So Grendel slipped through the door and there snatched up thirty men, smashed them  and ran out with their bodies , the blood dripping behind him. The next night the monster appeared again. The men defended themselves bravely, but their swords could not even hurt the monster.

    From that time no one dared to come to Heorot. The hall stood empty and deserted for twelve years.

    The story of Grendel’s twelve years of terror had spread throughout the other clans. Beowulf, a young hero of the Geats, received permission from his king Higlac, to sail with fourteen warriors to offer their help to the Danes.

    When they got off the ship, they saw a horseman who was one of King Hrothgar’s warriors. He took Beowulf and his friends to Hrothgar’s palace. The king had heard of Beowulf’s strength and heroic deeds, so he gladly welcomed the famous warrior. Late at night Beowulf sent all the men to bed, while he himself remained awake waiting for the monster. As Beowulf knew that no weapon could kill Grendel, he decided to fight bare-handed.

    Suddenly the monster broke into the hall. He snatched one of Beowulf’s warriors, cut his body with his jaws and drank the blood from his veins. Then he approached Beowulf. A desperate fight began. Heorot trembled, its benches rattled and fell to the floor. Grendel understood that he had never met with such strength. Beowulf managed to tear off  the monster’s arm, and the monster retreated to his den to  die. In the morning Beowulf hung Grendel’s arm and shoulder in the hall.

    The next night Grendel’s mother , a water-witch, came to Heorot to revenge her son’s death. She was wild with grief and anger. While Beowulf was asleep, she snatched one of Hrothgar’s favourite warriors. Beowulf decided to fight the water-witch. He jumped into the lake and found the water-witch in her den beside the dead body of her son. A desperate fight began. Beowulf’s sword had no power against the monster. Fortunately he saw a huge magic sword hanging on the wall. Beowulf seized it and killed the witch.  Then he cut off the heads of Grendel and his mother and carried them to the surface as a proof of his victory.

    The crowd loudly expressed their admiration for the hero. Hrothgar poured treasures into Beowulf’s hands. When Beowulf came back home, he gave all the treasures to Higelac and the people. Beowulf was admired and honoured by everybody. After the death of King Higelac, Beowulf became king of the Geats. For fifty years he ruled his country wisely until one day a great disaster came to the happy land: every night there appeared a fire-breathing dragon who came and destroyed the villages and the crops. Remembering his glorious youth, Beowulf decided to fight the dragon and save his people. In a fierce battle the dragon was killed, but his flames burnt Beowulf, and he died of his wounds.