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King Hrothgar of Denmark, a descendant of the great king Shield Sheafson, enjoys a
prosperous and successful reign. He builds a great mead-hall, called Heorot, where his
warriors can gather to drink, receive gifts from their lord, and listen to stories sung by
the scops, or bards. But the jubilant noise from Heorot angers Grendel, a horrible
demon who lives in the swamplands of Hrothgars kingdom. Grendel terrorizes the
Danes every night, killing them and defeating their efforts to fight back. The Danes
suffer many years of fear, danger, and death at the hands of Grendel. Eventually,
however, a young Geatish warrior named Beowulf hears of Hrothgars plight. Inspired
by the challenge, Beowulf sails to Denmark with a small company of men, determined to
defeat Grendel.

Hrothgar, who had once done a great favor for Beowulfs father Ecgtheow, accepts
Beowulfs offer to fight Grendel and holds a feast in the heros honor. During the feast,
an envious Dane named Unferth taunts Beowulf and accuses him of being unworthy of
his reputation. Beowulf responds with a boastful description of some of his past
accomplishments. His confidence cheers the Danish warriors, and the feast lasts merrily
into the night. At last, however, Grendel arrives. Beowulf fights him unarmed, proving
himself stronger than the demon, who is terrified. As Grendel struggles to escape,
Beowulf tears the monsters arm off. Mortally wounded, Grendel slinks back into the
swamp to die. The severed arm is hung high in the mead-hall as a trophy of victory.

Overjoyed, Hrothgar showers Beowulf with gifts and treasure at a feast in his honor.
Songs are sung in praise of Beowulf, and the celebration lasts late into the night. But
another threat is approaching. Grendels mother, a swamp-hag who lives in a desolate
lake, comes to Heorot seeking revenge for her sons death. She murders Aeschere, one
of Hrothgars most trusted advisers, before slinking away. To avenge Aescheres death,
the company travels to the murky swamp, where Beowulf dives into the water and fights
Grendels mother in her underwater lair. He kills her with a sword forged for a giant,
then, finding Grendels corpse, decapitates it and brings the head as a prize to
Hrothgar. The Danish countryside is now purged of its treacherous monsters.

The Danes are again overjoyed, and Beowulfs fame spreads across the kingdom.
Beowulf departs after a sorrowful goodbye to Hrothgar, who has treated him like a son.
He returns to Geatland, where he and his men are reunited with their king and queen,
Hygelac and Hygd, to whom Beowulf recounts his adventures in Denmark. Beowulf then
hands over most of his treasure to Hygelac, who, in turn, rewards him.

In time, Hygelac is killed in a war against the Shylfings, and, after Hygelacs son dies,
Beowulf ascends to the throne of the Geats. He rules wisely for fifty years, bringing
prosperity to Geatland. When Beowulf is an old man, however, a thief disturbs a barrow,
or mound, where a great dragon lies guarding a horde of treasure. Enraged, the dragon
emerges from the barrow and begins unleashing fiery destruction upon the Geats.
Sensing his own death approaching, Beowulf goes to fight the dragon. With the aid of
Wiglaf, he succeeds in killing the beast, but at a heavy cost. The dragon bites Beowulf
in the neck, and its fiery venom kills him moments after their encounter. The Geats fear
that their enemies will attack them now that Beowulf is dead. According to Beowulfs
wishes, they burn their departed kings body on a huge funeral pyre and then bury him
with a massive treasure in a barrow overlooking the sea.

Sir Gawain and the green Knights

During a New Years Eve feast at King Arthurs court, a strange figure, referred to only
as the Green Knight, pays the court an unexpected visit. He challenges the groups
leader or any other brave representative to a game. The Green Knight says that he will
allow whomever accepts the challenge to strike him with his own axe, on the condition
that the challenger find him in exactly one year to receive a blow in return.

Stunned, Arthur hesitates to respond, but when the Green Knight mocks Arthurs
silence, the king steps forward to take the challenge. As soon as Arthur grips the Green
Knights axe, Sir Gawain leaps up and asks to take the challenge himself. He takes hold
of the axe and, in one deadly blow, cuts off the knights head. To the amazement of the
court, the now-headless Green Knight picks up his severed head. Before riding away,
the head reiterates the terms of the pact, reminding the young Gawain to seek him in a
year and a day at the Green Chapel. After the Green Knight leaves, the company goes
back to its festival, but Gawain is uneasy.

Time passes, and autumn arrives. On the Day of All Saints, Gawain prepares to leave
Camelot and find the Green Knight. He puts on his best armor, mounts his horse,
Gringolet, and starts off toward North Wales, traveling through the wilderness of
northwest Britain. Gawain encounters all sorts of beasts, suffers from hunger and cold,
and grows more desperate as the days pass. On Christmas Day, he prays to find a
place to hear Mass, then looks up to see a castle shimmering in the distance. The lord
of the castle welcomes Gawain warmly, introducing him to his lady and to the old
woman who sits beside her. For sport, the host (whose name is later revealed to be
Bertilak) strikes a deal with Gawain: the host will go out hunting with his men every day,
and when he returns in the evening, he will exchange his winnings for anything Gawain
has managed to acquire by staying behind at the castle. Gawain happily agrees to the
pact, and goes to bed.

The first day, the lord hunts a herd of does, while Gawain sleeps late in his
bedchambers. On the morning of the first day, the lords wife sneaks into Gawains
chambers and attempts to seduce him. Gawain puts her off, but before she leaves she
steals one kiss from him. That evening, when the host gives Gawain the venison he has
captured, Gawain kisses him, since he has won one kiss from the lady. The second
day, the lord hunts a wild boar. The lady again enters Gawains chambers, and this time
she kisses Gawain twice. That evening Gawain gives the host the two kisses in
exchange for the boars head.

The third day, the lord hunts a fox, and the lady kisses Gawain three times. She also
asks him for a love token, such as a ring or a glove. Gawain refuses to give her
anything and refuses to take anything from her, until the lady mentions her girdle. The
green silk girdle she wears around her waist is no ordinary piece of cloth, the lady
claims, but possesses the magical ability to protect the person who wears it from death.
Intrigued, Gawain accepts the cloth, but when it comes time to exchange his winnings
with the host, Gawain gives the three kisses but does not mention the ladys green
girdle. The host gives Gawain the fox skin he won that day, and they all go to bed
happy, but weighed down with the fact that Gawain must leave for the Green Chapel the
following morning to find the Green Knight.

New Years Day arrives, and Gawain dons his armor, including the girdle, then sets off
with Gringolet to seek the Green Knight. A guide accompanies him out of the estate
grounds. When they reach the border of the forest, the guide promises not to tell
anyone if Gawain decides to give up the quest. Gawain refuses, determined to meet his
fate head-on. Eventually, he comes to a kind of crevice in a rock, visible through the tall
grasses. He hears the whirring of a grindstone, confirming his suspicion that this
strange cavern is in fact the Green Chapel. Gawain calls out, and the Green Knight
emerges to greet him. Intent on fulfilling the terms of the contract, Gawain presents his
neck to the Green Knight, who proceeds to feign two blows. On the third feint, the
Green Knight nicks Gawains neck, barely drawing blood. Angered, Gawain shouts that
their contract has been met, but the Green Knight merely laughs.

The Green Knight reveals his name, Bertilak, and explains that he is the lord of the
castle where Gawain recently stayed. Because Gawain did not honestly exchange all of
his winnings on the third day, Bertilak drew blood on his third blow. Nevertheless,
Gawain has proven himself a worthy knight, without equal in all the land. When Gawain
questions Bertilak further, Bertilak explains that the old woman at the castle is really
Morgan le Faye, Gawains aunt and King Arthurs half sister. She sent the Green Knight
on his original errand and used her magic to change Bertilaks appearance. Relieved to
be alive but extremely guilty about his sinful failure to tell the whole truth, Gawain wears
the girdle on his arm as a reminder of his own failure. He returns to Arthurs court,
where all the knights join Gawain, wearing girdles on their arms to show their support.
Death of Arthur

The enchanter Merlin advises King Uther Pendragon to establish the fellowship of the
Round Table, which will be comprised of the 140 greatest knights in the kingdom. Merlin
is to continue his role of Uthers counselor with Uthers son, Arthur, who will maintain
and immortalize the tradition of the Round Table.

Arthurs life begins as the result of an illicit affair between Igraine, the duchess of
Tintagel and the wife of Gorlois, and Uther Pendragon. Merlins magic art had allowed
Uther to visit Igraine in the likeness of her husband, of whose death she is as yet
unaware. Arthur is conceived as a result of this deception. Ignorant of his true origin, he
is brought up from infancy by one of Uthers knights.

In Arthurs youth, the Lady of the Lake, Nimue, presents him with the sign of his
kingship: Excalibur, a great sword encrusted with precious stones. Still ignorant of the
identity of his mother, Arthur has a brief love affair with Morgause, the queen of Orkney
and one of Igraines three daughtersand, thus, Arthurs half sister. The product of this
incestuous liaison is Mordred, who is both King Arthurs nephew and his illegitimate son.
Sir Gawain, a knight intensely loyal to Arthur, is the son of King Lot of Orkney and his
queen, Morgause. Gawain is, therefore, Arthurs nephew.

Arthur takes Guinevere as his queen. Lancelot, a French knight and warrior of almost
superhuman capabilities, joins the Round Table and becomes the courtly lover of
Queen Guinevere. He is practicing a medieval convention in which a knight chastely
loves and honors a lady without regard to her marital status. This chaste love eventually
becomes carnal, sowing the seeds of destruction for Arthurs kingdom.

In Camelot, seat of Arthurs court, Lancelot and Guinevere have begun a love affair.
Mordred and Sir Agravainone of Gawains several brothers, who dislikes Lancelot
intenselyplot to capture Lancelot and the queen in flagrante. The king goes hunting,
allowing Mordred and Agravain the opportunity to substantiate, if they can, their charges
against the lovers. Lancelot indeed visits the queens chamber. The two conspirators
and an additional twelve knights of the Round Table trap Lancelot within the queens
chamber and demand that he surrender himself to them. When Lancelot finally
emerges, he slays Agravain and his twelve companions. Only Mordred, wounded,
escapes. Lancelot entreats Guinevere to go away with him but, grief-stricken at the
disastrous results of her adultery, she tells him she will stay.

Guinevere is to be burned at the stake for her offense. Arthur bids Gawain and his
brothers, Gaheris and Gareth, to lead the queen to the fire. Gawain respectfully
declines, but his brothers reluctantly obey; they refuse, however, to bear arms. Lancelot
rides to the queens rescue, slaying all who oppose him. Unfortunately, in the crush of
battle, he unwittingly kills the unarmed Gaheris and Gareth. He takes Guinevere to
Joyous Garde, his castle in England. Gawain, formerly Lancelots dear friend, now
becomes his implacable enemy. After the pope arranges a truce between the forces of
Lancelot and the king, Lancelot returns Guinevere. He and his kin leave England to
become rulers of France.

Arthur, encouraged by Gawain, invades France and renews the war. Mordred takes
advantage of Arthurs absence and declares himself king. He attempts to marry
Guinevere, but she escapes. Upon learning of Mordreds treachery, Arthur and his army
return to England. Gawains life is taken when a battle ensues on the landing grounds.
Before he dies, however, he repents for pressing Arthur to make war on Lancelot.
Arthur is urged in a dream to make a one-month truce with Mordred; the usurper
agrees, but both he and the king tell their men to attack if a sword is brandished.
Unluckily, a knight is bitten on the foot by an adder, and when he raises his sword to kill
the serpent, a general battle breaks out. One hundred thousand participants are killed
and, at the conclusion of the carnage, Arthur and Mordred meet in single combat. Arthur
runs his son through with his spear but simultaneously receives a mortal wound to the
head. Finally, only he and Sir Bedivere remain alive.

The dying Arthur instructs Bedivere to cast Excalibur into the lake. Bedivere, seduced
by the richness of the sword, twice hides it and lies to the king. The third time, however,
Bedivere obeys. A hand reaches up, grasps Excalibur, and draws it beneath the
surface. Bedivere puts the king on a barge containing three queens clad in mourning
his sister, Queen Morgan la Fe; the queen of North Wales; and the queen of the Waste
Lands, all accompanied by Nimue, the Lady of the Lake. As he is being rowed away,
Arthur tells Bedivere he is going to Avilion (a possible earthly paradise) either to die or
to recover from his wound. Bedivere later discovers a chapel where a hermit tells him of
a number of ladies who had visited at midnight with a corpse for him to bury.

No one is certain that King Arthur is dead. The inscription on his tomb refers to him as
the once and future kinghe may come again if England needs him. Guinevere
becomes a nun and Lancelot a priest, ever doing penance for their sins.

Paradise Lost

Miltons speaker begins Paradise Lost by stating that his subject will be Adam and Eves
disobedience and fall from grace. He invokes a heavenly muse and asks for help in
relating his ambitious story and Gods plan for humankind. The action begins with Satan
and his fellow rebel angels who are found chained to a lake of fire in Hell. They quickly
free themselves and fly to land, where they discover minerals and construct
Pandemonium, which will be their meeting place. Inside Pandemonium, the rebel
angels, who are now devils, debate whether they should begin another war with God.
Beezelbub suggests that they attempt to corrupt Gods beloved new creation,
humankind. Satan agrees, and volunteers to go himself. As he prepares to leave Hell,
he is met at the gates by his children, Sin and Death, who follow him and build a bridge
between Hell and Earth.

In Heaven, God orders the angels together for a council of their own. He tells them of
Satans intentions, and the Son volunteers himself to make the sacrifice for humankind.
Meanwhile, Satan travels through Night and Chaos and finds Earth. He disguises
himself as a cherub to get past the Archangel Uriel, who stands guard at the sun. He
tells Uriel that he wishes to see and praise Gods glorious creation, and Uriel assents.
Satan then lands on Earth and takes a moment to reflect. Seeing the splendor of
Paradise brings him pain rather than pleasure. He reaffirms his decision to make evil his
good, and continue to commit crimes against God. Satan leaps over Paradises wall,
takes the form of a cormorant (a large bird), and perches himself atop the Tree of Life.
Looking down at Satan from his post, Uriel notices the volatile emotions reflected in the
face of this so-called cherub and warns the other angels that an impostor is in their
midst. The other angels agree to search the Garden for intruders.

Meanwhile, Adam and Eve tend the Garden, carefully obeying Gods supreme order not
to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. After a long day of work, they return to their bower
and rest. There, Satan takes the form of a toad and whispers into Eves ear. Gabriel, the
angel set to guard Paradise, finds Satan there and orders him to leave. Satan prepares
to battle Gabriel, but God makes a sign appear in the skythe golden scales of
justiceand Satan scurries away. Eve awakes and tells Adam about a dream she had,
in which an angel tempted her to eat from the forbidden tree. Worried about his
creation, God sends Raphael down to Earth to teach Adam and Eve of the dangers they
face with Satan.

Raphael arrives on Earth and eats a meal with Adam and Eve. Raphael relates the
story of Satans envy over the Sons appointment as Gods second-in-command. Satan
gathered other angels together who were also angry to hear this news, and together
they plotted a war against God. Abdiel decides not to join Satans army and returns to
God. The angels then begin to fight, with Michael and Gabriel serving as co-leaders for
Heavens army. The battle lasts two days, when God sends the Son to end the war and
deliver Satan and his rebel angels to Hell. Raphael tells Adam about Satans evil
motives to corrupt them, and warns Adam to watch out for Satan. Adam asks Raphael
to tell him the story of creation. Raphael tells Adam that God sent the Son into Chaos to
create the universe. He created the earth and stars and other planets. Curious, Adam
asks Raphael about the movement of the stars and planets. Eve retires, allowing
Raphael and Adam to speak alone. Raphael promptly warns Adam about his seemingly
unquenchable search for knowledge. Raphael tells Adam that he will learn all he needs
to know, and that any other knowledge is not meant for humans to comprehend. Adam
tells Raphael about his first memories, of waking up and wondering who he was, what
he was, and where he was. Adam says that God spoke to him and told him many
things, including his order not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. After the story, Adam
confesses to Raphael his intense physical attraction to Eve. Raphael reminds Adam
that he must love Eve more purely and spiritually. With this final bit of advice, Raphael
leaves Earth and returns to Heaven.

Eight days after his banishment, Satan returns to Paradise. After closely studying the
animals of Paradise, he chooses to take the form of the serpent. Meanwhile, Eve
suggests to Adam that they work separately for awhile, so they can get more work
done. Adam is hesitant but then assents. Satan searches for Eve and is delighted to
find her alone. In the form of a serpent, he talks to Eve and compliments her on her
beauty and godliness. She is amazed to find an animal that can speak. She asks how
he learned to speak, and he tells her that it was by eating from the Tree of Knowledge.
He tells Eve that God actually wants her and Adam to eat from the tree, and that his
order is merely a test of their courage. She is hesitant at first but then reaches for a fruit
from the Tree of Knowledge and eats. She becomes distraught and searches for Adam.
Adam has been busy making a wreath of flowers for Eve. When Eve finds Adam, he
drops the wreath and is horrified to find that Eve has eaten from the forbidden tree.
Knowing that she has fallen, he decides that he would rather be fallen with her than
remain pure and lose her. So he eats from the fruit as well. Adam looks at Eve in a new
way, and together they turn to lust.

God immediately knows of their disobedience. He tells the angels in Heaven that Adam
and Eve must be punished, but with a display of both justice and mercy. He sends the
Son to give out the punishments. The Son first punishes the serpent whose body Satan
took, and condemns it never to walk upright again. Then the Son tells Adam and Eve
that they must now suffer pain and death. Eve and all women must suffer the pain of
childbirth and must submit to their husbands, and Adam and all men must hunt and
grow their own food on a depleted Earth. Meanwhile, Satan returns to Hell where he is
greeted with cheers. He speaks to the devils in Pandemonium, and everyone believes
that he has beaten God. Sin and Death travel the bridge they built on their way to Earth.
Shortly thereafter, the devils unwillingly transform into snakes and try to reach fruit from
imaginary trees that shrivel and turn to dust as they reach them.

God tells the angels to transform the Earth. After the fall, humankind must suffer hot and
cold seasons instead of the consistent temperatures before the fall. On Earth, Adam
and Eve fear their approaching doom. They blame each other for their disobedience
and become increasingly angry at one another. In a fit of rage, Adam wonders why God
ever created Eve. Eve begs Adam not to abandon her. She tells him that they can
survive by loving each other. She accepts the blame because she has disobeyed both
God and Adam. She ponders suicide. Adam, moved by her speech, forbids her from
taking her own life. He remembers their punishment and believes that they can enact
revenge on Satan by remaining obedient to God. Together they pray to God and repent.

God hears their prayers, and sends Michael down to Earth. Michael arrives on Earth,
and tells them that they must leave Paradise. But before they leave, Michael puts Eve to
sleep and takes Adam up onto the highest hill, where he shows him a vision of
humankinds future. Adam sees the sins of his children, and his childrens children, and
his first vision of death. Horrified, he asks Michael if there is any alternative to death.
Generations to follow continue to sin by lust, greed, envy, and pride. They kill each
other selfishly and live only for pleasure. Then Michael shows him the vision of Enoch,
who is saved by God as his warring peers attempt to kill him. Adam also sees the story
of Noah and his family, whose virtue allows them to be chosen to survive the flood that
kills all other humans. Adam feels remorse for death and happiness for humankinds
redemption. Next is the vision of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel. This story explains the
perversion of pure language into the many languages that are spoken on Earth today.
Adam sees the triumph of Moses and the Israelites, and then glimpses the Sons
sacrifice to save humankind. After this vision, it is time for Adam and Eve to leave
Paradise. Eve awakes and tells Adam that she had a very interesting and educating
dream. Led by Michael, Adam and Eve slowly and woefully leave Paradise hand in
hand into a new world.
Of Studies
Bacon's essay "Of Studies" is part of The Essayes or Counsels, Civil and Moral, of
Francis Lord Verulam, Viscount St. Alban (London, 1625)
Bacon argues that studies "serve for Delight, for Ornament, and for Ability." For delight,
Bacon means one's personal, private education; for "Ornament," he means in
conversation between and among others, which Bacon labels as "Discourse." Studies
for "Ability" lead one to judgment in business and related pursuits. From Bacon's
perspective, men with worldly experience can carry out plans and understand particular
circumstances, but men who study are better able to understand important political
matters and know how to deal with problem according to their severity ("Marshalling of
At the same time Bacon encourages studies, he warns that 1) too much studying leads
to laziness; 2) if one uses one's knowledge too often in conversation with others, then
one is showing off; and 3) to be guided solely by one's studies one becomes a scholar
rather than a practical man. Bacon's argument about the value of studies is that
moderation is the key to using studies appropriately: studies are wonderful only if
influenced by experience because a person's natural abilities are enhanced by studies,
but studies without experience, lead to confusion in dealing with the outside world.
According to Bacon, dishonest men condemn education; stupid men admire education;
but wise men use education as their real world experience dictates. He warns the
educated man not to use his education to argument unnecessarily with people; not to
assume that education always leads to the correct behavior or understanding; not to
use education merely to focus on conversation with others. Rather, Bacon argues,
education ("some Bookes") should be read but their advice ignored; other books,
ignored completely; and a few books are to be "Chewed and Digested," that is,
understood perfectly and used to guide behavior. In addition, Bacon advises that some
books can be read by others, who take notes, and the notes can substitute for reading
an entire book--but these books should not be those that cover important subjects.
Bacon returns to addressing the effects of reading, conversation, and writing: reading
creates a well-rounded man; conversation makes a man think quickly; and writing, by
which Bacon usually means argument essay writing, makes a man capable of thinking
with logic and reason. Further, Bacon argues, if a man doesn't write very much, he has
to have a good memory to compensate for what he doesn't write; if he doesn't exercise
the art of conversation, he needs to have a quick wit; and if he doesn't read very much,
he has to be able "to fake it," to pretend that he knows more than he does.
History, Bacon argues, makes men wise; poetry, clever; mathematics, intellectually
sharp; logic and rhetoric, skilled in argument. Further, Bacon believes that there is no
problem in thinking that cannot be fixed by the appropriate study--just as the right
physical exercise cures physical illnesses. Every disorder of the mind has a cure--for
example, if a man cannot use one set of facts to prove the truth of an un-related set of
facts, Bacon advises the study of law.
Every defect in thinking can be cured by another form of study.

Paradise Lost opens with Satan on the surface of a boiling lake of lava in Hell (ouch!);
he has just fallen from Heaven, and wakes up to find himself in a seriously horrible
place. He finds his first lieutenant (his right-hand man), and together they get off the
lava lake and go to a nearby plain, where they rally the fallen angels. They have a
meeting and decide to destroy Adam and Eve (God's children and precious science
experiment) in order to spite God. Satan volunteers for the job and leaves Hell to go
look for Adam and Eve. The scene then shifts to Heaven (Book 3), where God talks
about how he can see what Satan is planning. He knows everything all the time. He has
a conversation with His Son, says he knows that Satan will tempt mankind and that
Adam and Eve will eat the fruit of the Forbidden Tree. He needs to know if anyone will
intervene on man's behalf. The Son volunteers, which makes God and all the angels in
Heaven very happy. The scene shifts again, this time to Eden. Satan has reached the
Garden, and we see Eden and Adam and Eve for the first time through his eyes. We
watch Adam and Eve hang out together for a while, before going into their hut to go to
bed and make love. Meanwhile, God has sent out a search party to get Satan out of the
Garden, which is easy as pie. The next day, God sends the angel Raphael to talk to
Adam and Eve about Satan and whatever else they might want to know. About a week
after Adam's chat with Raphael, Satan returns to the Garden, disguises himself as a
serpent (snake), and convinces Eve to eat the Forbidden Fruit. She in turn convinces
Adam to have a taste. After that, they have steamy, lustful sex for the first time.As a
result of Adam and Eve's sin (eating the Forbidden Fruit), the gates of Hell are now wide
open for Sin and Death (who are actual characters in this poem) to build a bridge from
Hell to earth. Satan returns to Hell triumphant, but he and his angels are eventually
turned into serpents as punishment for Satan's evil deed. As for Adam and Eve's
punishment, God makes them leave the Garden of Eden. He also introduces death,
labor pains, and a bunch of other not-so-fun stuff into the world. Before they leave
Paradise, however, God sends the angel Michael down to give Adam a vision of the
future. After his history lesson, Adam and Eve leave the Garden of Eden in what is one
of the saddest moments in English literature.