The Role Of Alcohol And Drinking In Beo

Alcohol in medieval literature was both the catalyst for mass discourse, as well as the poison for the poignant hero or the annoying antagonist. In yonder day poetry, the feast was the call-to-all community beckon; and in Beowulf, it was the binding of soldiers from either side of a particular interest. In one instance we find Unfetter appearing to act upon his better judgment, treating himself to what he thinks is the fondness of the king, more or less showing off for the Seats and challenging the great Beowulf, who obliges.

The rest of the men in the hall seem to expect this because no one interferes. In the time of Beowulf, a soldier’s assertions or boast, known then as a “gulp” or “gillie” (Earl 82), was often belted out at seats. The day’s master of ceremonies would have been known as a “scoop” (Earl 81). His job would have been to tell folktales, recite poetry, and sing songs. And the drinks of the day were served by either women of the house (wives and daughters), stewards, or brewers known as “Ella boras” or “ale bearers,” with the first round of beverages often served by the wife of the lord of the house.

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In Beowulf, we are given visions of hundreds of warriors engaging in loud gambling, the eating of fresh catches, drinking of mead and ale, and discussing their latest kills and the introduction of Christianity: The retunes of war favored Warthogs. / Friends and kinsmen flocked to his ranks, / young followers, a force that grew / to be a mighty army. So his mind turned / to hall-building: he handed down orders / for men to work on a great mead- hall / meant to be a wonder of the world forever; / it would be his throne- room and there he would dispense / his God-given goods to young and old. 64-72) When the author of Beowulf first makes references to drinking, or the word “drain,” it indicates the geniality of sharing alcohol with other likened warriors in the great hall. However, it is also used when Greened devours one f Beowulf men and drinks his blood. But again when Greened is killed and the Seat men are sitting around, relaxing, passing around horns Of wine: “There was the best of feasts; / the warriors drank wine” (1233).

To be sure, though, we should not be given to believe that drinking was vital to everyday life; however, it did seem essential to the celebrations of the community after something great happened, such as the death of an enemy, or a holiday. This may be why, to this day, drinking at festivities like birthday parties and around the holidays or during a at football game is seen as an acceptable form of elaboration, while drinking just to drink can label a person an alcoholic and is frowned upon. In Germanic lore, though, celebration with drink is valued. Sharing drinks with comrades meant a great accomplishment had been met.

The companionableness of drinking together after celebrating victories, establishing confirmed allegiances, or during gatherings by a king or lord to show his appreciation for his people, was an important part of life and the reciprocity of leaders and men. In lines 1 168 to 11 71, Hoarder’s wife, Wealthier, encourages both her king and the men in the hall to imbibe in elaboration after the death of Greened: “Enjoy this drink, my most generous lord; / raise up your goblet, entertain the Seats / duly and gently, discourse with them, / be open-handed, happy and fond. In Anglo-Saxon Appetites: Food and Drink and their Consumption in Old English and Related Literature, Hugh Imagines writes that there are several keynotes related to drinking that are repeated in the story, such as drinking itself, the presence of women pouring drinks, as well as “rejoicing, speeches, gift-giving, and physical splendor” (63). Direct references to Beowulf drinking alcohol can first be mound on line 628 of Beowulf when Beowulf “accepts the cup” from Wealthier during the first feast after the monster’s death.

Again we find references to Beowulf drinking in lines 101 9 to 1023: “Then Halftone’s son presented Beowulf / with a gold standard as a victory gift, / So Beowulf drank his drink, at ease; / it was hardly a shame to be showered with such gifts / in front of the hall-troops. ” However, even before the first feast after the monster’s death, drinking is negatively written about when Unfetter taunts Beowulf at the first feast. Beowulf translator, Seam’s Haney, translates line 30 of the epic as Beowulf saying to unfetter: ‘Well, Unfetter, you have had your say about Berea and me, but it was mostly drink that was talking. It seems that references to being “drunk” have stronger negative connotations than that of just “drinking’ or enjoying drinks. Similar to today, it is alright to enjoy one’s self, but not to be a “drunkard. ” There are several parts of the story where drinking is expounded upon. In addition to Beowulf and Unfetters back-and-forth and Whaleboat’s offering of the guest cup that we have detailed above, we are given to the details and the importance of drink. Horror is directly referred to as a “wine hall” In line 994.

This is important because the author made it a point to call it a wine hall. In lines 494 to 498, we read about “bright mead” poured into “ale flagons. ” And in lines 1 1 58 to 1 1 62 and 1981 to 1983, the author writes about stewards making their round with a ‘ nine cup” and Hashish’s daughter pouring mead into warriors’ cups. Addressing the first major passages about alcohol in lines 494 to 498 and 530 to 531, it is curious to see that different types of drinks are referenced. First mead, then beer.

In lines 494 to 498, the author writes: “Proud in their trench; a thane did his office, / Carried in his hands the gold ale-flagons, / Poured bright mead. At times the scoop sang, / Bright-voiced in Horror; there was joy of warriors, / No small gathering of Seats and Danes. ” But then in lines 530 and 531 , Beowulf says to Unfetter: ‘What a great deal, Unfetter my friend, / Full of beer, you have said about race. ” The question that should be asked is “Do some types of drink have negative undertones, such as beer, compared to other drinks, such as mead? Then again, however, we find that before the death of Greened, Horror is specifically referred to as the “mead hall” (69). But after Beowulf bests Greened and rips off his arm, Horror is call the “wine hall” in line 994. And even further into the story, drinks are no longer served by stewards, but by “wine bearers” in lines 1 158 to 1 1 62: “This lay was sung through, / The story of the scoop. The glad noise resumed, / Bright-clanking bench-music, wine- bearers poured / From fluted silver. What we begin to find is a hierarchy of alcohol-?ale, then mead, then wine. The drinking of ale is always acceptable. Mead is also acceptable, but is offered at the behest of a welcoming someone back home or someone new. And wine is an absolute must at formal elaborations. For instance, when Beowulf and his men return to Eastland, they are welcomed by Hearth’s daughter: “The daughter of Hearth went down the hall / Pouring mead-cups, was a friend to the men, / Bore the strong drink to the warriors’ hands” (1981-1983).

When Beowulf talks to Hugely about his acceptance into Horror he says: “Never have I seen, in all my days / under heaven’s roof, a greater mead-feast” in lines 2014 and 2015. Again he mentions mead in line 2020 when he talks about Hoarder’s daughter serving “vessels of mead. ” But there is no mention of the wine feast from after Beowulf defeated the monster. So, why is this? Why is wine beatified, and beer and mead are served only socially? Also, where is the line drawn between feasting and over-indulging, and why is that important?

First, we should answer the second question. There are many adversaries to man, but none greater than himself. The test of a man to drink and celebrate, but not over-indulge, is a testament to his willpower. He who can enjoy the pleasantries of celebration without making a fool of himself is seen by others as both powerful within and without. The answer to the first question is a little more difficult. The author of Beowulf was a Christian, to be sure, what with the many references to fate, God, and living for the afterlife.

There are references in the epic that portray Greened as a descendant of the fabled, Biblical Cain and references to a Holy God in lines 107 and 1553. So, perhaps the author of the epic knew well the significance of wine as Chrism’s blood, thus wine’s presence at only the highest of ceremonies and celebrations. The consistency at which the author Of Beowulf refers to different types Of alcohol, how it is served, and when it is enjoyed and perhaps enjoyed a little o much is not a new inquiry into this age-old tale. Indeed, scholarship has been given to the subject in the past and that will likely continue into the future.

But fleeting analogies and theorized hypotheses aside, the role of alcohol then and now has not much changed. The time it takes to make wine can also be taken into consideration. Whereas making beer and mead are fairly simple processes, the making of wine is one that takes close attention to detail and the patience of an artist who adores his or her craft. By offering wine at a celebration, a lord of Beowulf time would have been showing both gig praise for the duty and presence of his guests, as well as his devotion to God by sharing the with them the blood of Christ.

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