A Multigenre Project by Claire Chapman
A Letter to You, Dear Reader
When I originally began this multigenre project about Beowulf and Canterbury Tales, I chose three different topics about which to write. My pieces fall under the topics of monsters/criminals, loyalty, and wealth, but when I discovered that I needed to find a way to tie my topics together, I was at a loss. These ideas were so different, much like the subject matter on which they were based. How was I supposed to form a connection that did not exist?
Stumped, I struggled to find a common link. Then, after much thought, the connection suddenly became clear. Instead of trying to find one common topic that united all three pieces, I discovered that, much like the way elements like symbolism, style, and tone interconnect to create a desired effect in a story, my topics were interconnected, as well, and could be used in reference to one another.
For example, in my first piece entitled “Grendel’s Remorse,” the topic is monsters/criminals, but I now see that Grendel’s actions can be linked to loyalty by way of his unwavering (and deadly) loyalty to his insane mother and to wealth and greed by his carnivorous desire to take more lives.
Likewise, in my second piece entitled “A Promise Shattered,” the topic of loyalty is supported by the ideas of monsters/criminals and wealth. The fear of a monster drove Beowulf’s men away from his aid, and not even the reward of wealth beyond imagination was enough to call them back from betrayal.
Finally, in my last piece entitled “My Greed, My Vice,” the rioter whom I name Jonathan learns a lesson about wealth and greed, and this is supported by tangent lessons about monsters/criminals and loyalty. The rioter’s greed drives him into a life of crime, and this life, devoid of honor, leaves no room for loyalty to his fellow rioters, which ultimately leads to his death.
I have learned from this project that all themes are able to be connected in a meaningful way when one is looking from the right perspective, and the use of different medias enhances these connections. I am particularly pleased with the outcome of my ballad, “A Promise Shattered,” partially because I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of creating rhyming lines that fit my ideas. In contrast, I found my description of “Grendel’s Remorse” more difficult to write because it involved putting into words an idea that had already taken full form without words at all.
Though only required to produce three art pieces, I have been able to learn many more lessons from my work, and, in the future, I would cherish the opportunity to write more poetry reflecting on literature, possibly at longer lengths and in varying styles. My project has been a pleasure to create, and I hope my art can unearth underlying connections and provide new perspectives to you when you read Beowulf and Canterbury Tales.
Theme: Even monsters seek acceptance.
Scene from Beowulf: "The Battle with Grendel"
Description: This sculpture of Grendel, though coarsely made and not exactly beautiful, is symbolic of what I interpret Grendel was feeling on the night he bled to death in his lair at the slaying hand of Beowulf. The sculpture itself is made aluminum foil, which is sometimes interpreted in dreams as symbolizing remorse for one’s evil actions, usually to an innocent person. Beneath every nefarious monster lies a lost soul looking for a form of acceptance, however twisted that form may be, and as Grendel lay dying, I believe he would have come to harsh terms with his deeds and felt sorrow.
"A Promise Shattered"
Theme: When loyalty is lost, betrayal will be felt.
Scene from Beowulf: "The Last Battle"/"The Spoils and The Farewell"
Description: When Beowulf goes to fight the dragon, he needs help because he is not as spry and strong as he once was. However, his men, who promised to stand with him and fight, abandon him in this time of need, and Beowulf is left to battle the dragon alone. Though Beowulf manages to kill the monster, he is mortally wounded in the fight. As he breathes his last, I imagine he would have feelings of resentment and sorrow that his friends abandoned him to die. This is a ballad from Beowulf’s perspective on what I depict those final thoughts were like.
A Promise Shattered
As I lay and take my dying breath,
My vision dark and soul the same,
I ponder the plight that is my death,
And to my men, I place some blame.
A promise made, a promise shattered
To fight with me through trial and storm.
Alas, it seems vows never mattered.
The price? My life, my flesh now torn.
I protected them when they had none.
I led them well. They loved me, no?
They swore to stay in the days of sun,
Yet now in night, I am left in woe.
Only one remains to save me now,
Only one to try to mend,
Only one to hear my aching song,
To witness this forsaken end.
"My Greed, My Vice"
Theme: Wealth can lead to greed and harmful decisions.
Scene from Canterbury Tales: “The Pardoner’s Tale”
Description: This will be a posthumous diary entry from the perspective of one of the rioters in the story told by the Pardoner in “The Pardoner’s Tale.” This is from the perspective of the rioter who hatched the plot to kill the youngest rioter and was then killed by the youngest rioter’s poison. This piece will show that the idea of wealth causes the elder rioter to make rash decisions about taking the life of his companion. This stems from his greed to possess more than his share of the wealth. This entry will also make reference to the time period in which I believe this tale would have taken place: the early 1400s. Look for references like the punishment of hanging, the drink similar to beer called “mead,” and the subtle allusion to the poison “nightshade,” a poison found and commonly used in Europe. A works cited list can be found below the diary entry.
7th of June, A.D. 1403
It seems the wealth I have so desperately been seeking has, in fact, become my downfall.
Clever. Oh, I thought I was so clever. After convincing Thomas to go into town, I was sure that Matthias and I would be able to outwit him, kill him, and take his share of the gold for ourselves. Though, our plan, borne in haste and out of greed, failed. Do not misunderstand; we were able to dispatch Thomas without the slightest problem. Upon his return, I held his shoulders pressed to the ground while Matthias made quick work of snapping his neck, much like the rope of the hangman’s noose would on the first swing… (Indeed, I anticipate we would all have faced the hangman’s noose in the end… Ah, but I digress).
As soon as Thomas was dead, Matthias and I ignorantly and naively celebrated our “victory” with a drink of the mead Thomas had brought back for us. We were so foolish.... Thomas, it seems, had an idea quite similar to ours; he had poisoned the mead, and, within minutes, Matthias and I could no longer breathe. My muscles were paralyzed, my mouth ran dry, and my lungs would no longer fill with air. Suffocation was imminent.
My last conscious thoughts were those of panic and fear, but now, in death, my reflections are colored with the irony that greed, a behavior which I once venerated, was what killed me in the end. Had I not been so eager to kill Thomas, would some divine intervention by God have prevented the poison from reaching my lips? Had I chosen an upright life, would I have missed the riches that are now stained in my blood, or would I have found richness and wealth in an as-of-yet unexplored way? There is no telling. All that can be told is that wealth was the object of my greed, my vice.
"Nightshade." Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. N.p.: World Book, 2015. 1p. 1. Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.
Terpstra, Nicholas. The Art of Executing Well : Rituals of Execution in Renaissance Italy.
Kirksville, Mo: Truman State UP, 2008. Early Modern Studies. E000xna. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.