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The Origins of BeowulfFrom Vergil to Wiglaf$
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Richard North

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199206612

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199206612.001.0001

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‘Thryth’ and the Reign of Offa

‘Thryth’ and the Reign of Offa

(p.225) 8 ‘Thryth’ and the Reign of Offa
The Origins of Beowulf

Richard North (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins to place Beowulf in Mercian history by reconsidering parallels between Offa of Angeln (I) and ‘Thryth’, in lines 1925-62 of Beowulf, also in Widsith, and King Offa (II) and Queen Cynethryth of Mercia (757-96). ‘Thryth’ is argued to be an unnamed princess, yet one whose blood-thirsty tale is told to allude to Cynethryth in her fictional role as the instigator of Offa's murder of King (later Saint) Æthelberht of East Anglia (died 794). This deduction is made on the basis of charters, Alcuin's letters and other Anglo-Saxon evidence, as well as on such twelfth- and thirteenth-century texts as the Hereford Passio s. Athelberti, Roger of Wendover's Chronica maiora, and the St Albans Vitae duorum Offarum. It is concluded that Beowulf, though not composed for Offa II, nonetheless uses the continental Offa to allegorize him as the first in a sequence of great Mercian kings.

Keywords:   Alcuin, Cynethryth, Mercia, Offa II, Thryth, Vitae duorum Offarum, Widsith

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