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Old English literature

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.
Grendel, a monster who lives at the bottom of a nearby mere, is provoked by the singing and
celebrating of Hrothgar's followers. He appears at the hall late one night and kills thirty of the
warriors in their sleep. For the next twelve years, the fear of Grendel's fury casts a shadow over
the lives of the Danes. Hrothgar and his advisors can think of nothing to calm the monster's
Beowulf, prince of the Geats, hears about Hrothgar's troubles, gathers fourteen of the bravest
Geat warriors, and sets sail from his home in southern Sweden. The Geats are greeted by the
members of Hrothgar's court, and Beowulf boasts to the king of his previous successes as a
warrior, particularly his success in fighting sea monsters. Hrothgar welcomes the arrival of the
Geats, hoping that Beowulf will live up to his reputation. During the banquet that follows
Beowulf's arrival, Unferth, a Danish thane, voices doubt about Beowulf's past accomplishments,
and Beowulf, in return, accuses Unferth of killing his brothers. Before the night ends, Hrothgar
promises Beowulf great treasures if he meets with success against the monster.
Grendel appears on the night of the Geats' arrival at Heorot. Beowulf, true to his word, wrestles
the monster barehanded.Click here to see the fight! He tears off the monster's arm at the
shoulder, but Grendel escapes, only to die soon afterward at the bottom of his snake-infested
mere. The Danish warriors, who have fled the hall in fear, return singing songs in praise of
Beowulf's triumph. Hrothgar rewards Beowulf with a great store of treasures. After another
banquet, the warriors of both the Geats and the Danes retire for the night.
Unknown to the warriors, however, Grendel's mother is plotting revenge (see "Grendel's
Mother's Attack"). She arrives at the hall when all the warriors are sleeping and carries off
Aeschere, Hrothgar's chief advisor along with her son's claw.) Beowulf offers to dive to the
bottom of the lake, find the monster and destroy her. He and his men follow the monster's tracks
to the cliff overlooking the lake where Grendel's mother lives. They see Aeschere's bloody head
sitting on the cliff. While preparing for battle, Beowulf asks Hrothgar to protect his warriors, and
to send his treasures to his uncle, King Hygelac, if he doesn't return safely.
Before Beowulf goes into the sea, Unferth offers him his sword, Hrunting. During the ensuing
battle Grendel's mother carries Beowulf to her underwater home. After a terrible fight, Beowulf
kills the monster with a magical sword, probably put there by the Al-Weilder, that he finds on the
wall of her home. He also finds Grendel's dead body, cuts off the head, and returns to land,
where the Geat and Danish warriors are waiting expectantly. Beowulf has now abolished the
race of evil monsters.
The warriors return to Hrothgar's court, where the Danes and Geats prepare a feast in
celebration of the death of the monsters. Beowulf bids farewell to Hrothgar and tells the old king
that if the Danes ever again need help he will gladly come to their assistance. Hrothgar presents
Beowulf with more treasures, and they embrace, emotionally, like father and son.
The Geats sail home. After recounting the story of his battles with Grendel and Grendel's
mother, Beowulf tells King Hygelac about the feud between Denmark and their enemies, the
Heatho-bards. He describes the proposed peace settlement, in which Hrothgar will give his
daughter Freawaru to Ingeld, king of the Heatho-bards, but predicts that the peace will not last
long. Hygelac rewards Beowulf for his bravery with land, swords, and houses.
The meeting between Hygelac and Beowulf marks the end of the first part of the poem. In the
next part, Hygelac is dead, and Beowulf has been king of the Geats for fifty years. A thief steals a
jeweled cup from a sleeping dragon who avenges his loss by flying through the night burning
down houses, including Beowulf's own hall and throne. Beowulf goes to the cave where the
dragon lives, vowing to destroy it single-handedly. He's an old man now, and he is not as strong
as he was when he fought Grendel. During the battle Beowulf breaks his sword against the
dragon's side; the dragon, enraged, engulfs Beowulf in flames and wounds him in the neck. All of
Beowulf's followers flee except Wiglaf, who rushes through the flames to assist the aging warrior.
Wiglaf stabs the dragon with his sword, and Beowulf, in a final act of courage, cuts the dragon in
half with his knife.
Yet the damage is done. Beowulf realizes that he's dying, that he has fought his last battle. He
asks Wiglaf to bring him the dragon's storehouse of treasures; seeing the jewels and gold will
make him feel that the effort has been worthwhile. He instructs Wiglaf to build a tomb to be
known as "Beowulf's tower" on the edge of the sea. After Beowulf dies, Wiglaf admonishes the
troops who deserted their leader when he was fighting against the dragon. He tells them that
they have been untrue to the standards of bravery, courage, and loyalty that Beowulf has taught.
Wiglaf sends a messenger to a nearby camp of Geat soldiers with instructions to report the
outcome of the battle. Wiglaf supervises the building of the funeral pyre. In keeping with
Beowulf's instructions, the dragon's treasure is buried alongside Beowulf's ashes in the tomb.
The poem ends as it began -- with the funeral of a great warrior.
The protagonist Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, comes to the aid of Hrothgar, king of the Danes,
whose great hall, Heorot, is plagued by the monster Grendel. Beowulf kills Grendel with his bare
hands and Grendel's mother with a giant's sword that he found in her lair.Later in his life,
Beowulf becomes king of the Geats, and finds his realm terrorized by a dragon, some of whose
treasure had been stolen from his hoard in a burial mound. He attacks the dragon with the help
of his thegns or servants, but they do not succeed. Beowulf decides to follow the dragon to its
lair at Earnanæs, but only his young Swedish relative Wiglaf, whose name means "remnant of
valour",[a] dares to join him. Beowulf finally slays the dragon, but is mortally wounded in the
struggle. He is cremated and a burial mound by the sea is erected in his honour.

Middle English literature

Pearl (summary)
Pearl is an elegy for a dead child, a daughter who died at just two years of age. She is the ‘pearl’
of the poem’s title, and the poet uses this image for her throughout. The poem is narrated by the
grieving parent of the lost child, who tells the reader of how he lost his pearl in a garden. After he
falls asleep, his spirit is transported to a bright and wonderful land. On the other side of the
stream by which he stands, he sees a beautiful maiden, dressed in white (a symbol of purity, of
course) and wearing pearls – the spirit form of his lost daughter. Telling him that he should not
grieve for her death, the maiden reminds the poet that though the earthly form dies, the spiritual
form will be kept alive in heaven, thanks to the Lord.
Indeed, the maiden tells our poet that she has become a bride of the Lord (or ‘Lamb’, after his
name, Agnes dei, or ‘Lamb of God’), and she has been crowned one of his queens in heaven.
The poet isn’t sure about all this. Can this vision be trusted? What about the Virgin Mary, well-
known Bride of Christ? Everyone, the maiden answers, is a king or queen in heaven. (In fact, the
maiden tells our poet that she is but one of some 144,000 brides of Christ.) Through baptism, the
innocent child – who did not have the chance to perform good deeds while on earth – can be
Where does she live with the Lamb and all his other brides? the poet asks her. She leads him
along the stream to the city known as the New Jerusalem, a twelve-gated city of light. There the
poet sees all of the other brides of the Lamb, also clad in white and wearing crowns, following the
Lamb to his throne, where angels wait to sing of his greatness. So enchanted does our poet
become by this vision that he wishes to cross the stream and join the maiden in the city of New
Jerusalem, but at that point – he wakes up. He is back in the garden where he fell asleep,
reconciled to his grief now he knows that his daughter, his precious pearl, is in heaven with the

Elizabethan literature
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
On a dark winter night, a ghost walks the ramparts of Elsinore Castle in Denmark. Discovered
first by a pair of watchmen, then by the scholar Horatio, the ghost resembles the recently
deceased King Hamlet, whose brother Claudius has inherited the throne and married the king’s
widow, Queen Gertrude. When Horatio and the watchmen bring Prince Hamlet, the son of
Gertrude and the dead king, to see the ghost, it speaks to him, declaring ominously that it is
indeed his father’s spirit, and that he was murdered by none other than Claudius. Ordering
Hamlet to seek revenge on the man who usurped his throne and married his wife, the ghost
disappears with the dawn.
Prince Hamlet devotes himself to avenging his father’s death, but, because he is contemplative
and thoughtful by nature, he delays, entering into a deep melancholy and even apparent
madness. Claudius and Gertrude worry about the prince’s erratic behavior and attempt to
discover its cause. They employ a pair of Hamlet’s friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to
watch him. When Polonius, the pompous Lord Chamberlain, suggests that Hamlet may be mad
with love for his daughter, Ophelia, Claudius agrees to spy on Hamlet in conversation with the
girl. But though Hamlet certainly seems mad, he does not seem to love Ophelia: he orders her to
enter a nunnery and declares that he wishes to ban marriages.
A group of traveling actors comes to Elsinore, and Hamlet seizes upon an idea to test his uncle’s
guilt. He will have the players perform a scene closely resembling the sequence by which Hamlet
imagines his uncle to have murdered his father, so that if Claudius is guilty, he will surely react.
When the moment of the murder arrives in the theater, Claudius leaps up and leaves the room.
Hamlet and Horatio agree that this proves his guilt. Hamlet goes to kill Claudius but finds him
praying. Since he believes that killing Claudius while in prayer would send Claudius’s soul to
heaven, Hamlet considers that it would be an inadequate revenge and decides to wait. Claudius,
now frightened of Hamlet’s madness and fearing for his own safety, orders that Hamlet be sent
to England at once.
Hamlet goes to confront his mother, in whose bedchamber Polonius has hidden behind a
tapestry. Hearing a noise from behind the tapestry, Hamlet believes the king is hiding there. He
draws his sword and stabs through the fabric, killing Polonius. For this crime, he is immediately
dispatched to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. However, Claudius’s plan for Hamlet
includes more than banishment, as he has given Rosencrantz and Guildenstern sealed orders for
the King of England demanding that Hamlet be put to death.
In the aftermath of her father’s death, Ophelia goes mad with grief and drowns in the river.
Polonius’s son, Laertes, who has been staying in France, returns to Denmark in a rage. Claudius
convinces him that Hamlet is to blame for his father’s and sister’s deaths. When Horatio and the
king receive letters from Hamlet indicating that the prince has returned to Denmark after pirates
attacked his ship en route to England, Claudius concocts a plan to use Laertes’ desire for revenge
to secure Hamlet’s death. Laertes will fence with Hamlet in innocent sport, but Claudius will
poison Laertes’ blade so that if he draws blood, Hamlet will die. As a backup plan, the king
decides to poison a goblet, which he will give Hamlet to drink should Hamlet score the first or
second hits of the match. Hamlet returns to the vicinity of Elsinore just as Ophelia’s funeral is
taking place. Stricken with grief, he attacks Laertes and declares that he had in fact always loved
Ophelia. Back at the castle, he tells Horatio that he believes one must be prepared to die, since
death can come at any moment. A foolish courtier named Osric arrives on Claudius’s orders to
arrange the fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes.
The sword-fighting begins. Hamlet scores the first hit, but declines to drink from the king’s
proffered goblet. Instead, Gertrude takes a drink from it and is swiftly killed by the poison.
Laertes succeeds in wounding Hamlet, though Hamlet does not die of the poison immediately.
First, Laertes is cut by his own sword’s blade, and, after revealing to Hamlet that Claudius is
responsible for the queen’s death, he dies from the blade’s poison. Hamlet then stabs Claudius
through with the poisoned sword and forces him to drink down the rest of the poisoned wine.
Claudius dies, and Hamlet dies immediately after achieving his revenge.
At this moment, a Norwegian prince named Fortinbras, who has led an army to Denmark and
attacked Poland earlier in the play, enters with ambassadors from England, who report that
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Fortinbras is stunned by the gruesome sight of the
entire royal family lying sprawled on the floor dead. He moves to take power of the kingdom.
Horatio, fulfilling Hamlet’s last request, tells him Hamlet’s tragic story. Fortinbras orders that
Hamlet be carried away in a manner befitting a fallen soldier.

Romantic period
The Eve of St. Agnes by john keats
In 304 A.D., a thirteen year-old Christian girl named Agnes of Rome was killed when she refused
to sacrifice to pagan gods. She subsequently became the patron saint of virgins, chastity, and
betrothed couples. On the eve of her feast day, January 20th, girls were historically told to
perform rituals that would enable them to see their future husbands in their dreams.

This poem begins in a chapel. A "Beadsman" (a pauper hired to pray on behalf of wealthy
patrons) is praying his rosary in the bitter cold; afterward, he goes to sit in ashes and grieves for
his sins. He hears music, and in burst the members of a happy party. Keats then introduces us to
"thoughtful Madeline," a young maiden who is looking forward to "Agnes' dreams" tonight.

A young man, Porphyro, is in love with Madeline and is on his way to her, hoping for "all saints to
give him sight of Madeline" (line 78). He approaches her family's chambers carefully, because
"his lineage" is not high enough to grant him direct entrance there. He is met by an old woman,
Angela, who recognizes him but tells him to go away, since the members of the party
surrounding Madeline have cursed him and his family. Porphyro convinces Angela that he will do
no harm to Madeline, whom he loves. Angela grudgingly agrees to lead him to Madeline's room,
where he can hide in a closet and watch her unnoticed.

Madeline returns from the party and dutifully kneels for her prayers. Then she takes off her
jewelry and undresses (within Porphyro's sight) and gets into bed, as tradition dictates, without
looking behind her. She settles into sleep. Porphyro brings out a feast from the closet. He tries to
wake Madeline, but her sleep is too deep; he takes up her lute and she suddenly awakes.
Madeline is disappointed that Porphyro's presence does not quite line up with the "immortal"
voice she had just heard, but she does not want to be left "to fade and pine" (329). Porphyro
quickly convinces her to run off with him to the southern moors. The two young people avoid all
the dangers in their way out of the house -- guards and dogs -- and escape together.
The Baron, along with his warrior-guests, has nightmares that night. Angela dies, and the
Beadsman sleeps "among his ashes cold"soldier
Victorian Period
The Great Expectations by charles Dickens
Pip, a young orphan living with his sister and her husband in the marshes of Kent, sits in a
cemetery one evening looking at his parents’ tombstones. Suddenly, an escaped convict springs
up from behind a tombstone, grabs Pip, and orders him to bring him food and a file for his leg
irons. Pip obeys, but the fearsome convict is soon captured anyway. The convict protects Pip by
claiming to have stolen the items himself.
One day Pip is taken by his Uncle Pumblechook to play at Satis House, the home of the wealthy
dowager Miss Havisham, who is extremely eccentric: she wears an old wedding dress
everywhere she goes and keeps all the clocks in her house stopped at the same time. During his
visit, he meets a beautiful young girl named Estella, who treats him coldly and contemptuously.
Nevertheless, he falls in love with her and dreams of becoming a wealthy gentleman so that he
might be worthy of her. He even hopes that Miss Havisham intends to make him a gentleman
and marry him to Estella, but his hopes are dashed when, after months of regular visits to Satis
House, Miss Havisham decides to help him become a common laborer in his family’s business.
With Miss Havisham’s guidance, Pip is apprenticed to his brother-in-law, Joe, who is the village
blacksmith. Pip works in the forge unhappily, struggling to better his education with the help of
the plain, kind Biddy and encountering Joe’s malicious day laborer, Orlick. One night, after an
altercation with Orlick, Pip’s sister, known as Mrs. Joe, is viciously attacked and becomes a mute
invalid. From her signals, Pip suspects that Orlick was responsible for the attack.
One day a lawyer named Jaggers appears with strange news: a secret benefactor has given Pip a
large fortune, and Pip must come to London immediately to begin his education as a gentleman.
Pip happily assumes that his previous hopes have come true—that Miss Havisham is his secret
benefactor and that the old woman intends for him to marry Estella.
In London, Pip befriends a young gentleman named Herbert Pocket and Jaggers’s law clerk,
Wemmick. He expresses disdain for his former friends and loved ones, especially Joe, but he
continues to pine after Estella. He furthers his education by studying with the tutor Matthew
Pocket, Herbert’s father. Herbert himself helps Pip learn how to act like a gentleman. When Pip
turns twenty-one and begins to receive an income from his fortune, he will secretly help Herbert
buy his way into the business he has chosen for himself. But for now, Herbert and Pip lead a
fairly undisciplined life in London, enjoying themselves and running up debts. Orlick reappears in
Pip’s life, employed as Miss Havisham’s porter, but is promptly fired by Jaggers after Pip reveals
Orlick’s unsavory past. Mrs. Joe dies, and Pip goes home for the funeral, feeling tremendous grief
and remorse. Several years go by, until one night a familiar figure barges into Pip’s room—the
convict, Magwitch, who stuns Pip by announcing that he, not Miss Havisham, is the source of
Pip’s fortune. He tells Pip that he was so moved by Pip’s boyhood kindness that he dedicated his
life to making Pip a gentleman, and he made a fortune in Australia for that very purpose.
Pip is appalled, but he feels morally bound to help Magwitch escape London, as the convict is
pursued both by the police and by Compeyson, his former partner in crime. A complicated
mystery begins to fall into place when Pip discovers that Compeyson was the man who
abandoned Miss Havisham at the altar and that Estella is Magwitch’s daughter. Miss Havisham
has raised her to break men’s hearts, as revenge for the pain her own broken heart caused her.
Pip was merely a boy for the young Estella to practice on; Miss Havisham delighted in Estella’s
ability to toy with his affections.
As the weeks pass, Pip sees the good in Magwitch and begins to care for him deeply. Before
Magwitch’s escape attempt, Estella marries an upper-class lout named Bentley Drummle. Pip
makes a visit to Satis House, where Miss Havisham begs his forgiveness for the way she has
treated him in the past, and he forgives her. Later that day, when she bends over the fireplace,
her clothing catches fire and she goes up in flames. She survives but becomes an invalid. In her
final days, she will continue to repent for her misdeeds and to plead for Pip’s forgiveness.
The time comes for Pip and his friends to spirit Magwitch away from London. Just before the
escape attempt, Pip is called to a shadowy meeting in the marshes, where he encounters the
vengeful, evil Orlick. Orlick is on the verge of killing Pip when Herbert arrives with a group of
friends and saves Pip’s life. Pip and Herbert hurry back to effect Magwitch’s escape. They try to
sneak Magwitch down the river on a rowboat, but they are discovered by the police, who
Compeyson tipped off. Magwitch and Compeyson fight in the river, and Compeyson is drowned.
Magwitch is sentenced to death, and Pip loses his fortune. Magwitch feels that his sentence is
God’s forgiveness and dies at peace. Pip falls ill; Joe comes to London to care for him, and they
are reconciled. Joe gives him the news from home: Orlick, after robbing Pumblechook, is now in
jail; Miss Havisham has died and left most of her fortune to the Pockets; Biddy has taught Joe
how to read and write. After Joe leaves, Pip decides to rush home after him and marry Biddy, but
when he arrives there he discovers that she and Joe have already married.
Pip decides to go abroad with Herbert to work in the mercantile trade. Returning many years
later, he encounters Estella in the ruined garden at Satis House. Drummle, her husband, treated
her badly, but he is now dead. Pip finds that Estella’s coldness and cruelty have been replaced by
a sad kindness, and the two leave the garden hand in hand, Pip believing that they will never
part again.

20th Century
The Tower by Yeats
The speaker decries the absurdity of the contrast between his old body and his young spirit. He
feels more passionate and inspired than ever - even more so than when he was a boy and went
fishing in the mountains of Western Ireland. Nevertheless, he feels he must say goodbye to
poetry and choose reason instead: it is more becoming to his age. He walks to and fro atop a
castle and looks out over the countryside. He sees where the wealthy Mrs. French once lived.
Her servant, who knew her wishes well, once cut off the ears of a rude farmer and brought them
to her on a covered dish.
When the speaker was young, some men spoke of a legendary peasant girl, who was the most
beautiful in the area. One drunk man talked of her often, and in the middle of a drinking session
got up to seek her out. He mistook the moon for her lovely face, and drowned in a lake. The man
who told the speaker these songs was blind, like Homer.
The girl may well be mistaken for the sun or moon, because, says the speaker, she has betrayed
all living men. The speaker himself created Hanrahan twenty years ago. The character was
destined to stumble through villages, lamed. When it was the speaker’s turn at cards, he shuffled
the pack into a pack of hounds, which then turned into a hare. Hanrahan followed these
The speaker interrupts his own story, crying “enough!” He must remember a man so distraught
that neither love nor music nor clipped ears could make him feel better. This man is a ruined
master of the house. Before the house went to ruin, servants dressed for war came to the house.
The speaker questioned them all, wondering whether they raged against age as he now does.
They give no satisfactory answer. The speaker is happy to be left with Hanrahan. He calls up
Hanrahan, from the knowledgeable dead, to tell him whether one thinks more often of a woman
won or lost. A woman, once lost, is an irretrievable mistake.
The speaker draws up his will, leaving men who fish tirelessly his pride. His pride is not political,
or tied up with slaves or tyrants, but that of Grattan and Burke. His pride is as refreshing as an
unexpected shower, as poignant as a swansong. He mocks Plato and Plotinus. He is prepared to
die with a combination of ancient poetry and of the love of women, both of which make man a
superhuman. He leaves his faith and pride to these young fishermen. He will now prepare his
body and his mind for death, or, worse, the death of those whom he has loved.
Analysis and Critical
of Literary Texts

Julia Pe S. Villa